PALO ALTO, Calif.—Agilent Technologies in late October unveiled its next-generation DNA microarray manufacturing process that will increase feature density of its ink-jet-based microarrays by more than four times in 2006 and perhaps tenfold or more in 2007.
One of the strengths of ink-jet based microarrays is that they offer more flexibility than photolithographics techniques such as those employed by Affymetrix, which are well-suited for catalog arrays and long production runs, notes Scott Cole, marketing director of Agilent's genomics business. Agilent's new process is designed to retain the flexibility that makes ink-jet arrays useful for many custom arrays and emerging applications while also giving researchers much more data with which to work.
Agilent's current single-array microarrays have 44,000 features. The new microarray printing technology, a higher-performance version of Agilent's proprietary ink-jet-based in situ fabrication method, is currently producing single-array microarrays with 95,000 and 185,000 features on standard 1-inch by 3-inch glass slides. Agilent is also using the new process to print microarrays containing eight arrays per slide. The new microarrays, whether in single- or multiple-array slide formats, are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2006.
"Density is important to the ChIP-on-chip work we do," says Dr. Richard Young, of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., which has done validation work on the new microarrays. "In our laboratory, the new Agilent microarrays are boosting productivity by letting us cover the same genomic regions faster and with less expense compared with the previous generation."
Agilent's ink-jet manufacturing process already combined high sensitivity with content flexibility, says Mike Booth, general manager for Agilent's genomics business. But now, those two advantages, combined with higher feature densities, "will place us in a unique position to deliver both a broad range of new applications as well as lower microarray costs to life science researchers," he predicts.
In addition to increased feature density, the enhanced ink-jet printing provides improved spot placement accuracy and further optimized synthesis uniformity. According to Agilent, this enables features to be synthesized closer together than on the previous generations of microarrays with minimal impact on feature size. As such, the 95,000 and 185,000 feature microarrays are reportedly compatible with existing experimental protocols without end users needing to invest in new scanners.
"Scientists are beginning to realize that gene expression isn't providing enough answers for all their biological questions," Cole notes. "So there are a whole new generation of microarray options coming out that in conjunction with gene expressions and other technique will help zoom in on the data needed."
Booth echoes that sentiment, saying that Agilent has aggressively augmented its informatics portfolio in recent months to facilitate this multi-application trend, and the new higher-density microarray capability is just one way to support that trend.