HAMBURG, Germany ¿ Two German biotech companies, Qiagen GmbH, of Hilden, and Evotec Analytical Systems GmbH, of Hamburg, formed a joint venture to develop and commercialize novel high-throughput nucleic acid detection and purification systems.

The goal of the equally funded joint venture is to link Qiagen¿s sample nucleic acid preparation technology with Evotec¿s fluorescence-based quantitative detection technology.

To date, Evotec¿s detection technology has been applied on miniaturized samples in the field of drug discovery and ultra-high-throughput screening. The approach includes PCR-based or isothermal amplification. The quality of each assay is monitored by means of an internal standard added to follow all steps from sample preparation to amplification. ¿This element of quality control is the key aspect of the joint venture approach,¿ Karsten Henco, CEO of Evotec Analytical Systems, told BioWorld International.

The joint venture will develop and market kits for the research market that will enable the scientist to conduct homogeneous ¿add-and-read¿ assays for the quantitative determination of the copy number of specific genes or RNA molecules present in a biological sample. The main focus will be the determination of infectious agents and pharmacogenetic profiling. Both applications will require a multi-parameter and multiplex readout for a given sample. Evotec¿s FCS-plus detection technology allows quantitative data to be generated in various sample volumes.

¿The main goal is to run quantitative PCR reactions in miniaturized arrays resulting in a significant reduction in the reagent cost per assay,¿ Henco said.

In the proprietary approach of the two companies, PCR amplification reactions and readout can be performed separately. That allows different amplification schemes to be performed, while sharing a single optical detection system enhances the throughput.

¿The joint venture,¿ Qiagen CEO Metin Colpan said, ¿will allow us to offer complete one-stop-shop¿ solutions to our customers, from the sample to the final result.¿

Both companies expect the technology to be ready for commercialization in 2001. Global distribution of the systems will be undertaken by Qiagen¿s international sales force. Evotec Analytical Systems GmbH is a subsidiary of Evotec Biosystems AG, which is expected to go public later this year. n