ARRAYJET, the Scottish bio-printing specialist, has won a £350,000 order from a Chinese life sciences company that produces detection kits for conditions including infant deafness, Down’s syndrome and thalassemia, a blood disorder that can cause anaemia.

The Roslin, Midlothian-based firm, which already exports to 24 countries, announced the printer order with Beijing-based CapitalBio, a major government-backed life sciences business that specialises in looking for genetic mutations in DNA. A million babies in China have been screened with its genetic hearing loss detection kit.

“This contract is really significant,” said Arrayjet chief executive Iain McWilliam. “It cements our position as a key technology supplier to the molecular diagnostics industry – and it’s also important internationally, because it’s our first system of this kind in China.”

Arrayjet’s printers use inkjet printheads to print biological material – including the DNA from a single gene, or a single protein or antibody – onto glass slides to create microarrays – likened to a microchip for biological screening in large-scale diagnostic or genetic tests.

“A single slide can analyse tens of thousands of biomolecules,” Dr McWilliam explained. “It’s like biological ink. That collection of spots on a glass slide is a microarray and it can be used as a screening tool by doctors who are looking for genes or proteins that indicate disease."

“CapitalBio is a government-supported Chinese molecular biology company who have been at the forefront of the microarray field for a long time. So it’s a real underlining of the confidence the industry has in Arrayjet’s technology.”

Dr McWilliam said speed was a key benefit for customers, because just one of Arrayjet’s printers could replace a dozen traditional pin printers, which produce microarrays by stamping pins on a glass slide.

Arrayjet employs 18 staff and was set up in in 2000 with funding from Archangels, the Scottish business angel syndicate, and Scottish Enterprise.

“This is yet another excellent contract achieved by Arrayjet,” said Archangel director Mike Rutterford. “The brand appears to becoming synonymous across the world with delivering instrumentation which has the precision and accuracy sought by many of the world’s top laboratories and science parks.”