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Getting a foot in the door
Agilent-BioTrove co-marketing deal could open opportunities for closer ties between them
By Jeffrey Bouley
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Agilent Technologies Inc. and Woburn, Mass.-based BioTrove Inc. signed a co-marketing agreement in mid-October that will help researchers in need of ultra-high-throughput preparation and analysis—but also perhaps open the door for BioTrove to access Agilent's sales, marketing and manufacturing infrastructure down the line.
The current deal is tightly focused on an agreement to co-market the Agilent 6410 Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer with BioTrove's RapidFire high-throughput sample preparation systems. The companies report that the two systems together will provide an integrated solution for ultra-high-throughput preparation and analysis of in vitro biological assays in pharmaceutical drug research.
"This relationship enables clients to integrate the fastest sample-preparation system on the market with the strength of leading-edge analytical mass spectrometry," says Guenter Nill, Agilent general manager, pharmaceutical and biotech market. "It significantly benefits pharmaceutical companies that want to spend less time and money discovering new leads and developing more effective medicines."
BioTrove's expertise in sample preparation for high-throughput screening and early ADME is a natural complement to Agilent's strength in analytical mass spectrometry, according to Dr. Al Luderer, president and CEO of BioTrove. "Together, we are enabling walk-away analysis of lead compounds against valuable targets that would be otherwise impossible to screen, helping biopharma clients meet the challenge of accelerating drug discovery research," he says.
But the deal with Agilent is, ideally, more than that and may one day lead to closer ties between the two companies, says Dr. Can "Jon" Ozbal, senior director and general manager of RapidFire products for BioTrove. As he notes, BioTrove, after seven years in business, is still a relatively early-stage company, and the RapidFire technology initially came out of seed money and a mandate from Pfizer. Over the years, BioTrove has improved and refined the technology from a service offering to an actual product, but the company doesn't have the resources to market the RapidFire technology as widely as it would like.
"Now, with instruments in the field and looking to take the next step, based on interest from companies in Japan, Europe and the U.S., we need a rather large footprint for post-sales support," Ozbal explains. "So our aim is to get access to the kind of infrastructure that a company like Agilent has." He freely admits there are no guarantees that Agilent will enter into more expansive deals in the future, but that is definitely the direction BioTrove intends to pursue.
"We have two complementary products here that will be much more powerful together than they are individually," Ozbal says. "We would love to get into a co-development deal at some point so that we can further integrate the platforms into something more seamless, perhaps enter into manufacturing and post-sales support deals with Agilent, and so on. We don't know if those things will happen, but we have to start somewhere, and that is what this co-marketing agreement can do for us."
RapidFire is designed to eliminate bottlenecks created by traditional mass spectrometry throughput, Ozbal says, and what it aims to do is turn mass spec into a plate reader of sorts. According to BioTrove, the RapidFire technology has been used by 10 of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies as a drug-discovery tool for more than four years and is routinely used in applications like the screening of previously intractable drug targets, cytochrome P450 inhibition and other preclinical ADME assays, as well as in directed evolution studies.