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Posted: June 30, 2008

WaferGen's SmartChip Real-Time PCR System to Begin Alpha Testing at University of Pittsburgh Medical School

(Nanowerk News) WaferGen Biosystems, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: WGBS), a leading developer of state-of-the-art gene expression, genotyping, cell biology and stem cell research systems, today announced that it has shipped the alpha version of its SmartChip™ Real-Time PCR System, as well as proprietary oncology gene panel assays to be used with the system, to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. This milestone will allow researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School to initiate the alpha testing program for the system and panels as part of the group's alpha testing and research collaboration with WaferGen. The SmartChip Real-Time PCR System is designed as the first whole genome, high throughput gene expression real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform and promises to deliver significant speed and cost advantages to researchers in the gene expression and genotyping markets.
The SmartChip Real-Time PCR System has the capacity to conduct 30,000 assays on a single chip. Comparatively, today's standard real-time PCR technologies are only able to run 384 assays on a single plate. Additionally, each of the system's wells is designed to support a real-time PCR reaction of 100 nanoliters. This represents a 1,000 fold decrease in the amount of reagent and sample required by today's standard real-time PCR technologies. The result is the ability to conduct gene expression research at a fraction of the time and cost associated with current technologies.
Under terms of WaferGen's collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, researchers will leverage the high-throughput real-time PCR capabilities of WaferGen's SmartChip Real-Time PCR System to support their identification of therapeutically-relevant biomarkers in the areas of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and lung cancer. This research may lead to the discovery of specific genes responsible for causing these diseases and conditions. In turn, this critical genetic information may ultimately provide physicians with new tools for determining accurate disease prognosis in patients, while also potentially providing drug developers with information necessary for the creation of targeted therapeutics for patients with COPD, IPF and lung cancer. WaferGen expects the alpha testing program will demonstrate significant cost and speed advantages for the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System as compared to other commercialized platforms. These experiments will be overseen by Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., Jack D. Myers Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at University of Pittsburgh and Naftali Kaminski, M.D., Director of the Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease.
"The shipment of the alpha version of the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School is a significant milestone for WaferGen as we work to rapidly bring this innovative product to the market," said Alnoor Shivji, WaferGen's chairman and chief executive officer. "We are eager to follow the progress of Dr. Shapiro and his research team as they advance the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System through alpha testing. The feedback that they will be able to provide WaferGen will be invaluable as we continue to pursue our mission of providing researchers around the world with access to the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System."
Dr. Shapiro is a world-renowned expert in identifying and understanding the underlying biological contributors to pulmonary diseases such as COPD, IPF, and lung cancer. His laboratory has played a leading role in guiding the path of cutting-edge COPD research including key discoveries related to the biological and pathological function of proteinases. With the goal of uncovering novel and effective pulmonary disease therapeutics, Dr. Shapiro and his team employ a multidisciplinary research approach which the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System is expected to strengthen.
WaferGen is presently continuing its work on the development of additional proprietary assays for the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System, including those focused in the area of toxicology. At the same time, the company is also developing an enhanced version of the system that will enable users to conduct 100,000 assays on a single chip. This will provide the opportunity for researchers to use one chip to conduct whole genome gene expression in triplicate.
About the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System
The SmartChip Real-Time PCR System™ is designed as the first whole genome, high-throughput gene expression real-time PCR platform and promises to deliver significant speed and cost advantages to researchers in the gene expression and genotyping markets. It is estimated that the genetic analysis market alone (comprised of gene expression and genotyping analysis) had approximately $2.4 billion in worldwide revenues in 2006 ($1.74 billion for gene expression and $650 million for genotyping). Total global revenue for this market is estimated to reach approximately $5.0 billion by 2012.
WaferGen believes the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System will be the first platform to combine the high-throughput capability and cost efficiencies of existing microarrays, with the sensitivity and accuracy of real-time PCR. Specifically, the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System's high density, rapid cycling configuration is expected to provide industry-leading throughput levels, while offering discovery and validation capabilities in a single step. The result will be the ability to conduct gene expression research at a fraction of the time and cost currently produced by existing instrument systems. For example, the company anticipates that whole genome assay time may be significantly reduced with the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System as compared to several days or months with microarrays or real-time PCR, respectively. This decrease in research time has broad economic implications across the drug development industry, particularly for pharmaceutical companies seeking avenues for reducing time to market for its therapeutics. Further, the company believes such throughput will dramatically impact the cost of such assays.
Beyond the significant time and cost advantages, the simplicity of the SmartChip Real-Time PCR System is unparalleled. The system will provide a number of key ease-of-use features including content-ready, high-density chips containing 30,000 - 100,000 nano-wells with gene panels optimized for cancer, toxicology and whole genome. The user-friendly SmartChip Real-Time PCR System will be preloaded with some of the reaction components. At the same time, the system will only require a very small sample size as compared to other technologies and platforms and will offer real-time detection and sophisticated read-out options while assuring detection sensitivity and temperature uniformity across chips.
About WaferGen
WaferGen Biosystems Inc. is a leader in the development, manufacture and sale of state-of-the-art systems for gene expression, genotyping, cell biology and stem cell research for the life science and pharmaceutical industries. The company is actively developing its SmartChip™ product for the gene expression and genotyping markets. SmartChip™ is being developed as the first whole genome, high throughput gene expression real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform and promises to deliver significant speed and cost advantages to researchers in the gene expression and genotyping markets. WaferGen currently markets its SmartSlide™ family of products to companies and organizations involved in stem cell and cell biology research. SmartSlide™, which was launched in 2006, represents the first fluidics integrated micro-incubators enabling cell biology and stem cell research. Representative SmartSlide™ customers include Harvard University, Mayo Clinic, California Institute of Technology (CalTech), Abbott Labs, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To learn more about WaferGen, please visit the company's web site at http://www.wafergen.com.
Source: WaferGen Biosystems
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