Agilent Technologies has announced a new AgBiotech business programme that incorporates elements of the gene expression, agricultural and food safety industries.
Agilent plans to build upon its existing advanced microarray and microfluidics (bioanalyser) technology platforms to develop a full range of AgBio-specific products and applications to address an estimated total available market of more than $500 million ($426m).
The company says that the first product to be introduced as part of the new programme will be the Agilent Magnaporthe grisea Oligo Microarray Kit (G4137A), the industry's first commercial microarray to include genetic probes from two genomes on one microarray, specifically rice blast (Magnaporthe grisea) and rice.
Rice blast, a filamentous fungus, is responsible for rice blast disease, which destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people each year. The unique design of this new microarray enables agricultural and biotech researchers to examine the molecular basis of plant diseases and develop environmentally sounds strategies to improve food quality. The new microarray was developed in collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University.
"Rice blast and rice together constitute a model system for studying fungal infection in plants," said Ralph Dean, professor of Plant Pathology and director of the Fungal Genomics Laboratory at NCSU. "By having two genomes on one microarray, we will be able to study host-pathogen interactions between plants and fungi in a way that was never before possible."
"Agilent has long-standing relationships with many customers in the AgScience and food industries, providing chemical analysis equipment," said Mary Pat Knauss, manager of Agilent's AgBiotech programme. "This new programme addresses their biological needs in agricultural research, such as with this new microarray, and in the detection of pathogens, biological agents, or genetically modified organisms in food. As concerns about food quality and labeling worldwide increase, so is the demand for these advanced biological analysis techniques."
"The line between chemical and biological research has become increasingly blurred and this programme bridges the two," said Chris van Ingen, senior vice president and general manager of Agilent's Life Science and Chemical Analysis group. "By leveraging our successful microarray and microfluidics technology platforms, we can quickly expand our product offerings and markets. This helps us to position LSCA for strong growth, while improving our operational efficiency."
Agilent began to establish relationships in the AgBiotech market several years ago, working closely with customers through its custom microarray program. Microarrays are used to measure the expression level of genes under varying conditions and are principally used in AgBiotech research to better understand plant genetics and gene function. Agilent's flexible ink-jet-based microarray manufacturing enables the development of highly sensitive microarrays with a lower upfront investment than competing technologies, enabling the company to address niche markets with microarrays for new genomes.
Microfluidics technologies are believed to have the potential to play an important role in food safety. The Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer and associated LabChips can assess the quality and quantity of biological samples, including DNA, RNA, proteins, and cells. Potential AgBio applications for this technology include protein characterisation, pathogen detection, and GMO screening, which could aid researchers who need to address new labelling requirements under regulatory development in Europe and around the world.
Agilent Technologies is a global technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 35,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6 billion in fiscal year 2002.