A “mito” distribution deal

Invitrogen gets exclusive distribution rights for MitoSciences’ monoclonal antibodies and immunoassays

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By Chris Anderson
EUGENE, Ore.—In a deal that will greatly expand its exposure,monoclonal antibody and immunoassay supplier MitoSciences announcedlast month it granted Invitrogen Inc. exclusive distribution rights inNorth America and options to the same rights in markets worldwide. Theannouncement comes as MitoSciences—born out of research conducted atthe University of Oregon (UO)—gains exclusive IP rights from theuniversity for its underlying technology (see below) and prepares forwhat it anticipates will be a rapid growth phase for the two-year-oldcompany.

"Obviously, Invitrogen offers MitoSciences a much greater reach in themarket than we could hope to create ourselves right now," saysJean-Paul "John" Audette, president of MitoSciences. "Aside from that,it offers us new channels to institutions that may have preferredsupplier agreements with Invitrogen, and having that channel access isimportant."

The relationship between Invitrogen and MitoSciences is long-standing,springing from another Eugene-based life sciences company, MolecularProbes, which Invitrogen acquired in 2003. According to August Sick, VPand GM of Invitrogen's Cellular Analysis business unit, MitoSciencesco-founders Roderick Capaldi and Michael Marusich worked with MolecularProbes to commercialize some of the monoclonal antibodies the pair weredeveloping through their work at the University of Oregon.

"The relationship predates the acquisition of Molecular Probes byInvitrogen," notes Sick. "The antibodies that they developed at theUniversity of Oregon were developed and licensed to Molecular Probesand a portfolio of products were developed and brought to market. Thoseantibodies, those hybridomas actually became a critical part of theMitoSciences business and they were assigned to MitoSciences when theywere spun out of the university."

Today, MitoSciences offers more than 200 monoclonal antibodies with thespecific focus on mitochondrial research. The pairing of Capaldi andMarusich at the university and as co-founders of MitoSciences bringsout the strengths of each. Capaldi is well-known for his research onthe role of mitochondria and Marusich is the founder of the monoclonalantibody facility at UO.
MitoSciences, formed in May 2006 as a spin out of the university, hasdistributed its antibodies via a number of different channels: directsales in North America: through a handful of antibody clearinghousesvia long-standing distribution deals arranged by the university; and avariety of distributors in 12 other countries. With Invitrogen,MitoSciences will eventually unify its channel to market through onesupplier.

Yet the relationship is about more than MitoSciences gaining a strongerworldwide sales presence and Invitrogen adding another line to itscatalog of research products.

"We have stains, fluorescent labeling and cell separation products,"says Sick. "It is our intention to package these along with MitoScienceproducts for our customers who are conducting mitochondrial diseaseresearch."

Audette says MitoSciences intends to work closely with Invitrogen inthe development of these kits, but it will not drive the direction ofthe company. With 10 Ph.D.-level scientists among its 20 employees,MitoSciences can now turn its attention to where the company's strengthlies: in the development of new antibodies and the production of itscatalog of antibodies for use in the drug discovery and diagnosticsresearch.

"With this deal and other recent developments, we feel like we are atthe base of what will be a steep growth curve," says Audette. "Now wecan really stay focused on our R&D." 

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