Innovation/Application: Microarrays Inc

Microarrays Inc (MI) produces technology that helps researchers advance personalized medicine. CEO Joel Peek gives us a closer look at Microarrays Inc, and explains why the institute is such a good fit for this biotech firm.

Q:  When was the company founded?

Microarrays Inc has its origins in the Microarray Core facility of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Comprehensive Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded in 1999, the Microarray Core facility was established to provide microarray-related services to the Vanderbilt University research community. In response to the growing expertise, proficiency and printing innovations developed at the cancer center, Microarrays, Inc. was established as an autonomous company through the office of enterprise development at Vanderbilt University in November of 2000.

Q: When and why did Microarrays move into the institute?

MI moved from Nashville to HudsonAlpha in May of 2008.  The institute was founded with an objective of developing and using biotechnology to further personalized medicine. MI’s technology fits well within this objective. We anticipated that a move to the institute would be a wonderful opportunity for MI to work with world-class researchers and like-minded biotechnology companies. Ultimately, we knew the environment would foster productive collaborations.

Q: Please tell us about your team.

It may sound cliché; nonetheless, it’s true – MI’s most valuable resource is its people. One of the determining factors in whether a young company survives is the people that make up that company. Fortunately, MI has been blessed with an amazing group of highly talented and motivated individuals who are dedicated to the mission of advancing array-based technologies for biological research, detection and diagnostics. Within our group, we know that we can implement change in the world, especially in the area of healthcare.

Q: In layman’s terms, what does Microarrays do?

Microarrays Inc (MI) is a technology company that uses precision robotics to manufacture a product called a microarray. Microarrays are orderly arrangements of capture probes usually made of DNA and/or proteins. These probes are able to “capture” biological information from experimental or clinical samples. Array-derived data allows researchers to rapidly sort through complex samples and identify the presence or absence of targets of interest.

Q:  Why is that important?

Array-based tools allow scientists to better understand the fundamental aspects of cellular biology, as well as to explore the underlying aspects of human genetic disease. Arrays also have promising applications in the field of diagnostics, such as sub-typing cancers in an effort to better direct therapies, and the identification of viral and bacterial pathogens within patient samples.

Q:  Who stands to benefit the most, directly or indirectly, from your technologies, products and services?

Array-based tools accelerate the overall rate of discovery, helping the basic researcher to more rapidly advance science. Within healthcare, everyone from the patient to the providing institution benefits from the use of array-based tools. For the patient, the diagnostic timesavings can mean the difference between a positive or negative outcome, especially regarding infectious diseases. Infectious agents can often require several days before a reliable identification of the pathogen can be made using typical culture methods. Arrays have the ability to accurately identify pathogens in a matter of hours and immediately guide the physician’s course of treatment. This is especially important given the prevalence of multi-drug resistant organisms and the ever-limited treatment options. Diagnostic arrays also have applications such as sub-typing cancers in an effort to better direct therapies. In both cases, the patient’s recovery outcome is hastened, which in turn frees up resources for the healthcare institution, ultimately increasing their capacity and profit line.

Q:  Has the relationship with HudsonAlpha been as successful as you had anticipated?

We’ve found the environment fostered at the institute to be invaluable for our growth and product development. HudsonAlpha is comprised of individuals from a wonderful diversity of disciplines, including scientific research, manufacturing and business.  Access to these formidable talents is a great resource, one that rapidly accelerates both the development and market entry of our products.

Q: What is next for Microarrays?

MI currently has an extensive offering of DNA-based arrays, but we will soon be expanding our portfolio to include more protein-based research tools. In addition, we will be targeting our resources toward the development of more diagnostic based tools, as well as establishing alliances with diagnostic providers.