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ABI, Eagle Research and Development, Cenix Bioscience, Molecular Devices, Sigma-Aldrich, PerkinElmer, Beckman Coulter, Luminex, Thermo, Merck, Sirna

ABI Signs Next-Generation Sequencing R&D Deal with Eagle Research and Development
Applied Biosystems has continued its next-generation sequencing push with a new R&D alliance with Eagle Research and Development, a Boulder Colo.-based company specializing in biomolecular analysis, ABI said this week.
The companies struck a two-year agreement during which ABI will help Eagle develop its single molecule-detection device. Still in the prototype phase, the technology identifies and quantifies molecules by their “unique electronic charge signatures.” ABI has the option of licensing the technology during that time.
ABI said it believes the technology could have “significant implications for advancing personalized medicine” based on its “potential for faster, more efficient and less expensive protein and nucleic acid identification, protein-protein and protein/small molecule interaction measurements, and DNA sequencing.”
Eagle won a two-year research grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute in 2002 to show its DNA-detection method, which uses a nanopore-based device.
Eagle’s platform comprises an array of nanopores with each nanopore containing embedded semiconductors or field-effect transistors. As single molecules are driven through a nanopore by a voltage differential, the three-dimensional charge profile of a molecule is measured by the FETs, enabling each molecule in the sample to be uniquely identified and precisely quantified.
"This technology offers the prospect to eventually correlate DNA and its expressed proteins with specific disease states using an inexpensive, disposable and portable device, which could be a boon for clinical research," Jon Sauer, founder of Eagle Research and Development, said in a statement.
"For example, the device has the potential to enable development of exquisitely targeted treatments using sequencing data both from a patient and from the disease-causing pathogen,” he said.
The statement said Eagle’s device measures a molecule's three-dimensional electronic charge profile directly, as opposed to measuring electronic current or conductance. It does not require fluorescent or other labels, thermal cycling, or optics.
“Compared to other nanopore-based technologies for measuring molecules using electronic signals, the Eagle approach achieves a 1,000-fold higher sensitivity as a result of the FETs embedded in the nanopores,” ABI’s statement said.
ABI chief scientific officer Dennis Gilbert said that although the platform “is still in early stages, we are excited about exploring this technology's ability to … [identify] molecules directly by electronic charge signatures, a capability which could also represent the future of label-free molecule detection."
ABI said it intends to focus initial development support and feasibility testing for applications in protein identification and detection of protein-binding events. Provided the ability to electronically profile the individual four nucleotides in DNA is further developed, ABI “believes the Eagle technology could potentially be the first to enable the identification and measurement of both DNA and proteins in a single sample at the same time.”
The alliance is the latest example of ABI siding with companies whose technologies have next-gen sequencing possibilities. In July 2006, the company acquired Agencourt Personal Genomics for $120 million for its sequencing by stepwise ligation technology see (BioCommerce Week 5/31/2006).
Several months earlier, ABI made an investment in VisiGen Biotechnologies for its real-time single-molecule sequencing technology (see BioCommerce Week 11/3/2005).

ABI to Help Create Proteomics Research Facility in Germany
Applied Biosystems, Cenix Bioscience, and the Biotechnology Center of Dresden Technical University will create a joint proteomics research facility in Dresden, Germany, Cenix said last week.
The German federal government is supporting the facility with a €1.2 million ($1.5 million) grant through its BioChance Plus program.  
Cenix, which uses RNAi in drug research, said the two-year partnership will pursue MS-based proteomic analysis of RNAi-induced phenotypes.
The companies will work with the university to analyze gene function and drug action through cellular phenotyping, working to detect and measure effects of pharmaceutical agents that modulate gene expression on living cells.
For the alliance ABI will use its mass spec systems, protein-labeling reagents, gene-expression assays, and RNAi knockdown reagents. The company will also work on the project from its Science Center Europe in Darmstadt, Germany.
Cenix said the project will help to overcome current limits of proteome profiling by developing broad, “quantitative surveys of protein levels in RNAi and drug treated cells using antibody-independent, mass spectrometry-based analyses.

Molecular Devices Reports Slight Revenue Gain on Weak Pharma Sales
Molecular Devices last week reported that its third-quarter revenues edged up 1 percent, while its net income dipped almost 40 percent year over year, due to decreased sales to pharmaceutical customers.
Revenues for the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to $45.5 million from $45.2 million in the same quarter last year. In July, the company said it expected to post between $48 million and $52 million in revenue.
“While we were disappointed in our overall results this quarter, we continue to believe that we are well-positioned based on the quality of our existing product portfolio and the strength of our expected new product introductions over the next year,” Joseph Keegan, Molecular Devices’ president and CEO, said in a statement.
Keegan added that softer-than-expected demand from pharmaceutical companies during the quarter impacted the drug-discovery and life-sciences product lines, but that drug-discovery imaging exceeded the company’s expectations for the quarter.
The decline in sales to pharma accounts runs counter to the experience of several capital equipment vendors in the BCW Index this past quarter, with firms reporting that pharma spending had improved somewhat.
During the firm’s third-quarter conference call last week, Keegan said, “Historically, Molecular Devices’ phasing of purchases has not necessarily been in alignment with the rest of the industry, particularly with the good results that have been posted by companies like Waters.”
He added, “There has been a move by some pieces of the pharmaceutical industry away from doing full library stream and performing more selected, directed streams. That means a smaller number of compounds being tested and requiring potentially fewer tools.”
Molecular Devices’ net income for the third quarter tumbled to $2.8 million, or $.17 per share, from $4.6 million, or $.27 per share, in the year-ago period.
The company spent $5.7 million on R&D in the third quarter, down from $6.4 million in the comparable period last year.
Molecular Devices said it expects to generate between $47 million and $52 million in fourth-quarter revenues, which is between a 1-percent decline and 9-percent increase over the same period last year. The firm said full-year revenue ought to come in between $180 million to $185 million, which would be flat year over year or a 2-percent increase.
As of Sept. 30, Molecular Devices had $13.3 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

Sigma-Aldrich Posts 7-Percent Revenue Growth in Q3
Sigma-Aldrich last week said that third-quarter revenue increased 7 percent as R&D spending grew and profit inched up 2 percent.
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 increased to $441.4 million from $412 million year over year.
“Benefits from the ongoing, global roll-out of new customer centric programs were partially offset by lower than expected improvements in underlying market conditions, particularly in Japan, and by slower than anticipated acceptance of several of our new and innovative Research Biotech products,” CEO Jai Nagarkatti said in a statement.
R&D spending rose slightly to $13.2 million.
The firm’s net income for the period increased to $68.4 million, or $1.02 per share, from $63.9 million, or $.94 per share, in last year’s Q3.
Sigma said it had around $137 million in cash and equivalents.
The firm said it expects full-year revenue from sales to increase 7 percent year over year, which will include a benefit from the acquisition in February of the JRH cell culture business. It expects organic sales growth to be around 6 percent.

PerkinElmer’s Q3 Revenue Rises 7 Percent
PerkinElmer last week reported a 7-percent increase in third-quarter revenue, while profits fell 7 percent.
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 increased to $386.9 million from $360 million year over year. Revenue from its life and analytical sciences division grew to $283.5 million from $259.1 million.
Rob Friel, president of the LAS division, said during the firm’s third-quarter conference call, “In the biopharma area, we are experiencing continued strength in biotech. Within academia and research, we are seeing flat to slightly down budgets, and within large pharma, research budgets continue to increase but with the spending being very targeted.
“From our perspective, large pharma spending is focused in two areas,” Friel said. “The first is improving productivity. For example, we are seeing a number of our customers shifting from fluorescence technology to luminescence technology within screening to improve sensitivity, facilitate miniaturization, and provide less interference.”
He also said pharma appears to be spending more on cellular analysis, which would be good for the firm since it recently introduced its JANUS cellular workstation, its CellLux and LumiLux instruments, and a new series of alpha screen cell-based reagents. “In the future you will continue to see us focus both our new products and our business development activities in these and several other key growth areas,” said Friel.
The company spent $24.8 million on research and development in the quarter, up $3 million from last year.
PerkinElmer’s net income declined to $29.8 million, or $.24 per share, from $31.8 million, or $.24 per share, in the third quarter of 2005. Last year’s results included a $5.2-million gain from discontinued operations.
PerkinElmer said it had around $207 million in cash and equivalents as of Oct. 1.

Beckman Coulter’s Q3 Sales, Profit Rise
Beckman Coulter this week said it saw modest gains in total receipts but strong profits over the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2006, with a 6.3 percent increase in sales and a 31 percent spike in income.
The company reported total revenue of $631.2 million compared with $593.4 million year over year.
Beckman reported third-quarter net income of $47.4 million, or $.74 per share, compared with $36.2 million, or $.56 per share during the same period last year.
This year’s third-quarter results include a net gain of $30 million related to the sale of Agencourt Personal Genomics to Applied Biosystems (see BioCommerce Week 5/31/2006). It also includes a $27.5 million licensing fee paid to Roche Diagnostics related to RT-PCR patents, $4.4 million in restructuring charges, and $4 million in non-cash charges related to the firm’s pension plan.
Beckman Coulter attributed its revenue gains to increased sales of consumables, particularly in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the Far East.
During the quarter the company completed its acquisition of Lumigen, a developer of high-sensitivity detection chemistries and clinical diagnostics, for $185 million, after having spent a reported $33 million over the last year buying Lumigen’s products.
Research and development costs for the quarter were up to $81 million, a 57 percent jump over Q3 2005.
Beckman finished the quarter with $69.1 million in cash and cash equivalents.
The company maintained its forecast for fourth-quarter revenue growth of between 7 percent and 9 percent. It expects the same range of growth for all of 2007.

Luminex Posts 17-Percent Revenue Gain in Q3, But Profit Turns to Loss
Luminex last week said third-quarter revenues increased 17 percent as the company swung to a profit.
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 increased to $12.5 million from $10.7 million year over year.
The majority of the company’s revenue came from sales of its Luminex systems, about a third came from consumables, and the rest was from royalties.
R&D spending in the quarter increased by more than half to $2.3 million from $1.5 million in the year-ago period.
Luminex this quarter posted a $111,000 profit compared to a net loss of $657,000 year over year.
Luminex said the income for the quarter includes $1.4 million in non-cash stock compensation expenses, of which about $560 thousand came from the adoption of new accounting standards.
The company had around $24.8 million in cash and equivalents and $11.2 million in short-term investments as of Sept. 30.

Thermo Opens Help Desk in Saudi Arabia
Thermo Electron last week said it has opened a new customer support center in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
The facility will be a help desk for regional informatics software and services and will provide technical assistance to Thermo’s clients in the region in their language. It will be based in Thermo's IT facility belonging to the company’s main regional partner, Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo Group.
Thermo, which already has an office in Dubai, said the expansion reflects increased client demand in the region.

Merck to Acquire Sirna for $1.1 Billion
Merck this week said it plans to acquire RNAi drug developer Sirna Therapeutics for around $1.1 billion in cash.
The deal is noteworthy for RNAi technology companies because Sirna, through principally a drug-discovery company, has said in the past that it would license its IP. It is not clear whether it has to date, or whether the Merck acquisition will help or hinder this goal.
Terms of the acquisition call for Merck to buy all of Sirna’s stock at $13 per share — which is more than double the price at which the stock closed the day before on the Nasdaq exchange. The last time Sirna’s shares reached $13 was in April 2002.
The deal will make Sirna a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck.
In 2003 Sirna licensed RNAi technology owned by the University of Massachusetts Medical School that covers one of the two international Tuschl patent applications covering the use of siRNAs to silence genes in mammals.
The deal gave Sirna an important piece of the RNAi patent puzzle. Sirna president and CEO Howard Robin said at the time that the deal gives his company exclusive control over the IP but specifies that Sirna negotiate sublicenses to the technology at “commercially reasonable terms” and share the proceeds with UMass.
"We believe that RNAi could significantly change the way in which we go about discovering and developing drugs, and could become a new way to treat patients with unmet medical needs,” Peter Kim, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement.
For Merck, the acquisition complements the RNA-expression research that it has been doing since 2001 when it acquired Rosetta Inpharmatics.
The companies expect the deal to close during the first quarter of 2007.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.