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Aclara Interim CEO Leaves: Company in Shift from Microfluidics to Assays

NEW YORK, Feb. 24 - Aclara Biosciences executive director and interim CEO Ed Hurwitz has resigned, the company said today, following on the heels of a downsizing at the Mountain View, Calif., microfluidics company.


Hurwitz, the former CFO of Affymetrix, notified Aclara staff Feb. 21 that he was leaving to pursue full-time work at San Franciscoventure capital firm Alta Partners. Hurwitz expected the decision to come as a surprise, and told staff he made the decision because it was impossible to continue working both at Aclara and at Alta, sources told GenomeWeb.


The departure comes less than three months after CEO Joseph Limber stepped down to "pursue other interests," and the company cut staff.


Until the company finds a new CEO, Limber and director Andre Marion will lead the company as "the office of the president,"  serving as an operating committee of the board and working with the management team, Aclara said. Hurwitz will also continue to serve on the board of Aclara.


These bumps at the top do not signal the company's pending demise, according to Jon Miller, director of corporate development. Instead, the company is shifting direction from microfluidics to assays, based on its eTag assay system, he said. "The true story is that microfluidics never caught on," Miller explained. While microfluidics was developed to solve the problem of small-volume assays, scientists have already solved these problems using microwell plates. "They didn't need to go to a quite sophisticated, restrictive system. Lucky for us, you can run [the eTag assays] on DNA sequencers, and lucky for us, there's a ton of those not being used."


Aclara made the decision about a year ago to transition from microfluidics to assays, Miller said. The company "did have to lay people off," added Miller, but still has plenty of cash. The layoffs came as a result of the change in direction and a desire to conserve cash. As of December 31, 2002, Aclara had $50.8 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments.

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