SANTA CLARA, Calif.—In a move that is expected to boost both its GeneChip technology and the assays available for its chips, Affymetrix recently acquired ParAllele BioScience, a privately held, South San Francisco-based company that provides assay technology for comprehensive genetic studies. Initially applied to genotyping, these highly flexible assays have the potential to be used in a broad variety of microarray applications.
Affymetrix was reportedly to pay approximately $120 million to acquire ParAllele, subject to certain adjustments, including changes in ParAllele's working capital prior to closing. The merger consideration is intended to be paid in Affymetrix stock.
Affymetrix and ParAllele had already been working together for roughly two years to help develop the assay, prove it on the Affymetrix array and commercialize it.
"Unlike other situations where it can take a while for products to emerge after an acquisition, we've been working together the whole time and there are products on the market already," says Greg Yap, vice president of DNA products for Affymetrix. "We have their assay and software, and our product and hardware. Where the acquisition came in is that we realized if we wanted to continue to drive innovation and develop new assays and product, it would be best to do it as one company."
"This is an exciting step for ParAllele. Affymetrix has been a vital collaborative partner in helping bring our proprietary technology to market," says Dr. Tom Willis, chief scientific officer and co-founder of ParAllele. "As one company, our customers will be able to take advantage of the most complete view of the genome possible with an expanded portfolio of integrated solutions."
According to a news release issued by Affymetrix, ParAllele's proprietary assay, when used with Affymetrix's GeneChip technology, gives researchers a powerful "molecular microscope" for examining the entire genome. Together these technologies reportedly offer researchers the ability to perform detailed analysis from several to tens of thousands of different sites in the genome, giving them the freedom to design virtually any experiment they want.
"This assay is a way to amplify regions of the genome to see differences in regions, but it also could be used in gene expression to see which genes are turned on and off to different degrees, to look at copy numbers, examine differences in genomes between individuals, and more," Yap explains. "This has applicability across all complex diseases. Cancer would be an obvious one, but you could pick almost any complex disease and there would be an application for this assay.
The assay can be used on other platforms as well, but Yap notes that is has been "optimized" on the Affymetrix platform.
A key component of ParAllele's technology is its proprietary Molecular Inversion Probe (MIP) assay. The MIP design allows potentially tens of thousands of reactions to be multiplexed in a single tube with what is said to be a high degree of accuracy and specificity. This technology already has been used successfully in the International Human Haplotype Mapping (HapMap) Project.