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After Shake-up, Sequenom Begins Designing Assays


After an aborted flirtation with drug discovery and a brush with the specter of downgraded stock, Sequenom is looking for a way up and out.

Two days after CEO Toni Schuh reiterated to investors his plan to set the company on track to profitability — a move that scuttled the company’s nascent pharmaceuticals business and will cost 50 staffers their jobs by the end of the year — the San Diego-based company this week introduced what it hopes will become a new source of revenue: an assay design service.

The service, called Assays by Sequenom, is “a custom design and validated assay product offering for the MassArray system that encompasses all three of our major applications, including SNP genotyping, gene expression, and SNP discovery,” says Mike Terry, Sequenom executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Based on current pricing and customer projections provided by a company spokesperson, the new service may generate between $1.2 million and $2.5 million in annual revenue from existing MassArray customers.

Assays by Sequenom, also known as AbS, would initially sell mostly to the company’s customer base, which is “roughly 120 customers worldwide,” says Terry. The assays will cost $175 per unit, he adds. A company spokesperson estimates that a typical customer will buy 100 assays per quarter, and that perhaps 15 to 30 percent of existing customers would purchase the service.

Sequenom’s broader restructuring plan, announced July 29, is expected to save the company $10 million a year, Schuh said in a presentation at the Merriman, Curhan, Ford, and Company Investor Summit in September. “We will dramatically reduce cash burn,” he added, estimating 2004 cash burn will be $32 million. He said the company would likely end the year with $35 million in cash.

— Chris Womack



US Patent 6,799,122. Method for identifying polymorphic markers in a population. Inventor: Andrew Benson. Assignee: Conagra Grocery Products. Issued: September 28, 2004.

The method includes using genotyping to characterize a population sample, developing a DNA microarray based on that sample, and genotyping another sample of the population using that array to find the polymorphic markers for that population. The patent also covers identifying polymorphic markers in bacteria and can generate graphical representation of bits in a plurality of bit strings.


US Patent 6,794,143. Biallelic markers derived from genomic regions carrying genes involved in arachidonic acid metabolism. Inventors: Marta Blumenfeld, Lydie Bougueleret, Ilya Chumakov, Annick Cohen. Assignee: Genset. Issued: September 21, 2004.

According to the abstract, the patented invention “provides polynucleotides including biallelic markers derived from genes involved in arachidonic acid metabolism and from genomic regions flanking those genes” as well as primers to hybridize to those regions. The method works for genotyping a sample for one or more biallelic marker and can find statistical correlations between markers or haplotypes and phenotypes.



$140 million

Estimated size of genotyping market according to an equity research report from Pacific Growth Equities. The report notes that the sector is “growing rapidly.”


Thanks to an NIH award of more than $14 million over five years, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University will start the first national SNP genotyping center. The center, made possible with funds from the National Center for Research Resources, will be a service resource for researchers trying to perform high-throughput, large-scale SNP studies. Stacey Gabriel will be the center’s director and PI.


Illumina signs an agreement to collaborate with the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium on a rheumatoid arthritis genotyping study that will analyze 3,125 samples using Illumina’s Linkage IV SNP panel with its BeadArray platform.


The Mayo Clinic wins a $10.2 million federal contract through NIAID to study genetic susceptibility to smallpox and genomic-based risks to the smallpox vaccine. The five-year award will help establish the Population Genetics Analysis Program, to be led by Greg Poland at the Mayo Clinic.


NCRR also funds the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to the tune of $595,000 to create an interdisciplinary center for studying gene-drug interactions. The Human Pharmacogenomic Epidemiology Center, to be overseen by Stephen Kimmel, will pull together various genomic and biotech resources at the school.


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