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Affymetrix to Acquire ParAllele

By Johan Bostrom, IDG News Service

July 20, 2005 | Affymetrix, the pioneer of DNA microarray technology, will acquire ParAllele BioScience for about $120 million in a deal expected to close in this year’s third quarter.

Affymetrix co-founder and CEO Steve Fodor and colleagues invented the DNA microarray in 1989 and sold the first commercial device in 1994. In 2003, Affymetrix offered the first whole-genome DNA chip.

ParAllele offers genetic discovery products based on biochemical processes, rather than instrumentation, for biomedical research, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics.

The companies have been working together for the past two years, with Affymetrix using ParAllele’s assay technology with the Affymetrix GeneChip technology, according to Andrew Noble, Affymetrix’s public relations manager. Affymetrix expects to strengthen its assay R&D capabilities and add knowledge in specific assay capabilities through the acquisition.

A key technology that ParAllele brings to Affymetrix is its proprietary molecular inversion probe (MIP) assay. “The MIP assay is a very flexible and highly specific assay, which can be scaled to large levels of multiplexing. So we can do tens of thousands of interrogations at one time,” says Tom Willis, chief scientific officer and co-founder of ParAllele.

A combination of Affymetrix’s GeneChip tag array and ParAllele’s MIP technology was applied in the International HapMap Project, although until now Affymetrix has only applied the assay to genotyping. “But the potential applications are much broader,” Fodor says. “We intend to use this innovative assay technology [MIP] to develop new product lines for applications, including chromosome copy number, targeted RNA analysis, and DNA methylation, among others.”

ParAllele assays are already used in clinical applications, Willis says. “For instance, we currently are working with Eli Lilly to use our assay to look at variations in genes that are involved in drug metabolism and transport.”

ParAllele was founded in 2001 by a team of scientists from the Genome Technology Center at Stanford University. The company currently has 80 employees working at its research facility in South San Francisco, where ParAllele will remain, and Willis will stay as senior researcher for the team he now leads, although the fate of the company’s name is unclear.

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