US-Swiss team announce leap in microarrays for genetics

Zeptosens is a pioneer in gene chips for the drug discovery and genetics research markets.

A Swiss microarray startup company along with a US partner have reported a 50-fold improvement in an automated system that analyses genes.

This content was published on December 17, 2003 - 15:03

The progress of the Basel-based Zeptosens, a maker of new measurements systems for DNA and RNA research was based on the results of a study it carried out with ViaLogy Corp in the US.

The results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Zeptosens product in the study is the SensiChip, which was developed in collaboration with QIAGEN, which is also marketing the chip.

ViaLogy provided the tools to measure the performance of SensiChip, specifically its Quantum Resonance Interferometry signal processing software.

“The study documents a 50 fold improvement in limit of quantization and a 10 fold reduction in data variance starting from the already highly sensitive SensiChip system,” said the press announcement.


What is revolutionary about these kinds of analytical tools is that they apply the productivity improving technologies from the chip and software industries to the pharmaceutical and diagnostic research lab.

For example, the microarrays from Zeptosens rely on planar waveguide technology, which comes out of the semiconductor industry.

Such chip-based systems cut out reagent costs, labor, time, as well as information distortion often associated with such processes, speeding up the whole research schedule.

"This study demonstrates that the SensiChip system is a sensitive and robust method to monitor gene expression. We are looking forward to moving into new, exciting applications with these enabling technologies," said Markus Ehrat, CEO of Zeptosens, which was founded in 1998.

Growing popularity

The two companies will continue to work together to push the performance envelope even further, according to the release.

The use of BioChips and microarrays has grown substantially since their inception less than ten years ago, according to ViaLogy. It is based in Pasadena and was a spin-off from the US space program, NASA.

Zeptosens is a spin-off of from Novartis and it uses patents that licensed from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant. Zeptosens, received a "seven-digit sum" in Swiss francs in October from the Novartis Venture Fund in a third round.

The investment, Zeptosens said, will enable it to widen the scope of its high-sensitivity DNA and protein microarray platform, which incorporates fluorescence-based detection technology licensed from Novartis.

The company raised SFr14 million ($10.6 million) in its second round in March 2001.

Valerie Thompson

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