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The UHN Microarray Centre (UHNMAC) was established in early 1998. At that time, the Microarray Centre was housed at the Ontario Cancer Institute, the research centre for the Princess Margaret Hospital. Over the course of a year, the Microarray Centre worked with a local engineering company, Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) to develop the arrayer robot and to turn it into a high precision, highly flexible device capable of making very dense arrays. The arrayer is now sold commercially as the BioRad VersArray ChipWriter Pro.
The Microarray Centre was established as part of a consortium of research institutions including the Ontario Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. We also had a few commercial partnerships and collaborations, including Allelix Biopharmaceuticals (now NPS Allelix), GeneFocus and Engineering Services Inc. During the development of the robotic systems, the Microarray Centre grew to increase our capacity to prepare clones for arraying. We continued to refine our protocols which were adapted from those originally published by Patrick Brown's group at Stanford.
In November 2000, the Microarray Centre expanded into new facilities which were renovated in large part due to a financial award from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). An award from the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF) allowed us to form the Ontario Microarray Network, consisting of microarray cores at Guelph, McMaster and Queen's Universities, coordinated by the main laboratory at the UHN. In October 2005, we moved into the Toronto Medical Discovery Tower (TMDT), part of the MaRS complex.
An award from Genome Canada in the second round of competition allowed us to expand further and develop new technologies such as our highly popular CpG Island Microarrays. This award was also instrumental in helping us establish our database system which has dramatically improved data analysis for our customers. This award further enhanced the Centre by allowing us to perform initial experiments to develop protein and cell array technologies which we are currently developing for release.
The UHN Microarray Centre is committed to providing our customers with quality microarrays and support. We are also committed to developing new technologies and refining the existing technologies, such that our customers always have access to leading edge tools.
Our team now numbers 28 people, including research scientists, technical staff, engineers, bioinformaticians, management and administrative support. The Microarray Centre houses 6 highly accurate arrayers, capable of producing a total of 2500 arrays with up to 36,000 features per week.
The Microarray Centre has been shipping arrays since 1999. Originally most of our customers were in North America, but we have since shipped to over 700 laboratories in 27 different countries on 6 different continents.