—Seeking to deliver a cost-efficient, broad-brush toxicity screening service to large and small companies alike, Iconix Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Affymetrix Inc in early February announced a collaboration to do just that by combining the capabilities of Affymetrix' GeneChip and Iconix' DrugMatrix 640 compound reference database and analysis software system. Calif.
To provide the service, Affymetrix will provide specialized GeneChips to customers interested in toxicity screening. Customers would then use the data sets from these chips and upload them to Iconix which would use elements of its DrugMatrix data to perform automated screening.
"We believe the single largest bottleneck to applying toxicogenomics, to do the data analysis, is that it takes highly-skilled individuals to perform the analysis," says Donald Halbert, executive vice president of research and development for Iconix. "It's not uncommon for companies to generate the data in one day then spend months analyzing it."
Under this collaboration, the two companies envision allowing researchers to do relatively fast and inexpensive screening of the toxicity of their compounds as a first screening step. As a result, both companies see the potential of reaching a market that may not have been able to afford toxicity screening in the past.
"The ability to leverage all of Iconix expertise and to do it using our chips is a win for everybody," says John E. Blume, vice president of RNA products at Affymetrix. "This will definitely help smaller [companies] that don't have a big toxicology department, but can get a big company answer with a small company investment."
For Iconix, the collaboration creates an additional opportunity to generate income from its DrugMatrix data base which currently includes data on more than 1,000 compounds. But the company also hopes that the first line broad screening delivered by the service will provide a potential up sell opportunity for its toxicity screening and services business.
"This allows customers to leverage our entire data base without actually buying it," says Halbert. "But it only gives them a first pass of examining the toxicological properties of their compounds. We believe this can help drive parts of our service business for those companies interested in pursuing more in-depth work."
For Affymetrix, the move to partner with Iconix comes as the company continues to actively search for partnerships that can drive sales of its chips into different segments of the market. "As we move to the more focused and expensive areas of toxicology or development, clearly Affymetrix will play a role there," says Blume. "But the total product solution will be a combination of our technology with someone else's domain expertise.
"For example, Affymetrix doesn't have a toxicology department. We could make a good guess at the genes to have on a toxicology chip, but it is better to work with a company like Iconix that has the expertise to say what will be useful. The key selling point is that this is a blend of our technology and their domain knowledge."