Monday, October 29, 2001
The microarray space has thinned out, as Corning Inc. and Incyte
Genomics Inc. have exited the arena, while Hyseq Inc. has moved into alliance
with Affymetrix Inc. to develop high speed DNA sequencing chips.
The moves leave AFFX as the major dedicated array play. But
the forces underlying realignment haven't disappeared, meaning that AFFX and
other would-be players such as Agilent Technologies Inc. and Motorola Inc. still
face challenges for growing the space.
In announcing his company's restructuring last week, INCY CEO
Roy Whitfield characterized the array market as one of "eroding margins"
that were no longer worth pursuing (see "Incyte: Two Messages",
Although GLW (Corning, N.Y.) abandoned the array arena as part
of a corporate restructuring, the opportunity clearly wasn't interesting enough
GLW's entrée was to produce a coated slide that labs
could use to produce their own microarrays, and the company had planned to follow
this product with its own line of arrays (see BioCentury, Feb. 26). The
company will continue to sell its slide, but all other microarray-related activities
have been stopped.
"We didn't want to make further investments in this fledgling
business unit. It was a pilot project and we were just entering the scale-up
stage," GLW spokesperson Rachael Finley told BioCentury.
Meanwhile, HYSQ - now Hyseq Pharmaceuticals Inc. - decided
to collaborate rather than fight with AFFX under last week's settlement of a
1997 suit between the companies (see "Seeking New Ground" A5).
According to HYSQ Chairman George Rathmann, "it was debilitating to wage
a war on two fronts - biopharmaceuticals and the highly competitive chip business."
Rathmann told BioCentury that the possibility of complementing
HYSQ's work with AFFX's technology led HYSQ to move forward with a "why
fight'em when you can join'em" attitude.
The collaboration won't consume a significant amount of resources,
added Rathmann, who said HYSQ "will not have to spend a lot of money to
get to a sustainable place. We're not trying to be a microarray company for
Commodity or not?
While chip consumers frequently describe arrays as commodities, chip makers say the picture is more complex.