Mapping the Scottish genome

Generation Scotland and Arrayjet collaborate on the development of new products and services for biomarker identification and development

Lloyd Dunlap
ROSLIN, Scotland—Generation Scotland (GS) and Arrayjet Ltd.will combine GS's human biobank material and health data with Arrayjet's inkjetmicroarray technology to develop new products and services to support biomarkeridentification and development in an initiative supported by funding fromScottish Enterprise.
 
 
Dr. Iain McWilliam, CEO of Arrayjet, says, "The field ofbiomarker discovery and research is a key focus for Arrayjet. Our technologyallows us to rapidly produce high-quality microarrays from a wide range ofbiobank sample types such as those available from Generation Scotland."
 
In October, Arrayjet expanded from a purely instrumentsales-driven company to one which also offers a microarray service—ArrayjetAdvance microarray services—to meet the demand from customers who want toaccess Arrayjet's printing technology but don't want, or can't afford, thecapital outlay to purchase an instrument and develop the know-how for their ownuse.
 
Claire Jenkins, with more than eight years experience in thecontract research organization service industry and biobanking sectors, wasbrought on board as commercial director and has been key in developing the newservice strategy, McWilliam states.
 
 
"We have already executed orders for prestigious customers suchas the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (United Kingdom), the KarolinskaInstitute (Sweden) and BioSystems International (France)," he notes. 
 
 
The company is now building a microarray production facilityat its base in Roslin, U.K., right next door to the Roslin Institute,birthplace of Dolly the sheep (as well as the site of the chapel seen in thefilm "The Da Vinci Code").
 
 
Arrayjet's technology utilizes an industrial-scale inkjetprinthead, and is capable of very high-throughput printing. In comparison withcompeting technologies, McWilliam says, Arrayjet offers production rates andcapacities of up to twenty-five-fold and fifty-fold greater, respectively. Thecompany's printing technology is also well-suited to printing the complexbiological samples found in biobanks, commonly stored in cryoprotectants,McWilliam adds.
 
 
Generation Scotland is one of the biggest and most ambitiousmedical genetics research programs ever to take place, says program directorRobin Morton. It is a collaboration of the Scottish University Medical Schools,NHS Scotland and allied research institutes. Since its launch in 2006, GS hasrecruited more than 30,000 research participants and collected their DNA, otherbiological samples and health data for research into the inherited nature ofcommon diseases.
 
 
There are three key resources, Morton notes, the mostextensive of which is the Scottish Family Health Study. Arrayjet responded to acall from Generation Scotland for small-to-medium size enterprises to suggestpilot studies to improve the usage of their biobank resources and help developtheir commercial potential. Around the same time, Arrayjet attended the NMIBiomarker Workshop in Reutlingen, Germany, where one of the key points beingdebated was the statistical validity of the validation processes associatedwith biomarker studies.
 
"Many studies were simply not testing sufficient numbers ofsamples to statistically substantiate their claims of prognostic or diagnosticvalue of their biomarkers, and this theme came up again and again during theworkshop," McWilliam says. "The logical progression for us, therefore, is tocombine Arrayjet's high-throughput technology with statistically significantnumbers of biobank samples to create tools for biomarker research and validation.Importantly, all of the GS samples are linked to detailed medical records,which means that any biomarker analysis can be correlated to clinical evidenceand be clinically validated. When you consider that we can take a microliter ofhuman serum and use it to create 1000 microarrays, including replicates, in asingle print run, and when you consider that we can put 65,000 features on aslide, the possibilities are phenomenal."
 
 
To sum up, McWilliam stresses that, "Biomarkers represent awindow into the phenotype, a real snapshot of what has actually been expressedover and above what is in the genotype or what has been transcribed. I likenthe genotype to the shopping list, whereas the phenotype is what is actually inthe cart. The collaboration between Arrayjet and Generation Scotland will allowus to harness that potential by drawing on our combined skills as well as thoseof the associated research community."

Lloyd Dunlap

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