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Aclara Fires 50 as Focus Shifts From Microfluidics to eTag Assays

NEW YORK, Aug. 1 - Aclara Biosciences said it will fire 50 employees as the company shifts its strategy from microfluidics technology to its new eTag assays.


"The growing enthusiasm for our eTag assays has motivated us to ... accelerate our progress" to commercialize them, said Joseph Limber, Aclara's president and CEO.


To that end, Aclara said it will cut 50 employees from its payroll by the end of the year, mostly from its microfluidics business. Staff from that business who remain will be redirected to help develop and launch the eTag technology, the company said yesterday.


The move does not, however, mean that Aclara intends to abandon its microfluidics R&D, according to Alfred Merriweather, the company's chief financial officer and vice president of finance. Instead, he said, what's left of the company's microfluidics efforts will support eTag.


The eTag technology lets researchers perform gene-expression, protein-expression, and protein-function analyses concurrently from the same sample, according to Aclara. This, it said, can help customers more quickly discover novel targets, ligands, and drug candidates.


Since first profiling eTag to an undisclosed number of potential customers earlier this year, Aclara said it struck 12 validation studies with eight pharma and bio companies, including Pharmacia and Genentech. These firms tested the eTag technology on gene-expression profiling, protein-expression and -function analysis, including protein-protein interactions, Aclara said.


The technology was so successful, in fact, that Aclara realized it needed to bolster its staff to help with an impending launch. As a result, during the past three months the company has hired around 10 marketing, sales, and business-development staff whose job it will be get the eTag technology off the ground later this year.


Left in the dust, however, was Aclara's microfluidics business, which comprises the Arteas assay well and the  LabCard incubation and electrophoretic-separation device. However, the company said its remaining efforts in microfluidics will focus on eTag instrumentation and on a controlled launch of the Plurex multiplexing system. Aclara said it is still shopping for a partner who would fully launch the system.

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