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AP Biotech in $7.5M Sequencing Technology Deal with DNA Sciences

NEW YORK, Jan 12 - Extending its close relationship with DNA Sciences, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech has agreed to pay the genetic analysis company $7.5 million to commercialize a new microchannel sequencing and genotyping technology developed by DNA Sciences, according to an S-1 registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last Friday in anticipation of DNA Sciences’ Initial Public Offering.

" In December 2000, the Company entered into a three-year research, development and commercialization agreement with Amersham Pharmacia Biotech to develop the Company's microchannel plate technology for use in performing DNA sequencing and genotyping studies,” the S-1 statement reads.

Under the agreement, signed December 29, AP Biotech will pay DNA Sciences $7.5 million in technology access fees, and will provide up to $6.3 million in funding for research efforts run by a joint steering committee. DNA Sciences will receive royalties from the agreement, and Amersham is required to sell its reagents to DNA Sciences at reduced prices for DNA sequencing and genotyping projects other than the microchannel platform development.

DNA Sciences will also receive the commercial version of the sequencer through an early access agreement, and expects to receive it in late 2001. The new sequencer could take the place of DNA Sciences’ 48 Megabace Sequencers , which it bought from AP Biotech for $6.6 million and has installed at its genotyping facility in California. Currently, the company says it can genotype 40,000 SNPs per day.

The microchannel sequencer, which integrates technology licensed from University of California, Berkeley and Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, includes a sample loader and an injection mechanism that contains 96 glass capillary channels. Fluorescently labeled DNA samples are loaded automatically from a standard 96-well plate onto the microchannel plate in miniscule volumes of several trillionths of a liter, according to the S-1. They are then transferred into separation channels, and electrically transported through these six-centimeter channels (the electricity separates the DNA into its components.)

Due to their different sizes, different nucleotides migrate through the channel at different rates. The scanner picks up these migration times, then the device translates these times into sequence information. Since the microchannel allows fewer molecules to go through the separation channel than other DNA sequencing machines, the device uses a shorter separation channel, and makes the sequencing five times faster, the S-1 says.

The channel can be used to detect sequence and to genotype. AP Biotech is developing the microchannel platform for a number of uses, including sequencing and genotyping, an AP Biotech spokeswoman said.

DNA Sciences says it will have to perform about two million genotypes for each disease it is studying, and plans to continue to research efficient and fast ways to complete this work, according to the S-1.

Currently, DNA Sciences operates out of a facility in Fremont, California and uses 6,000 square feet of AP Biotech’s lab space in Sunnyvale, California, but is in the process of moving all of its operations to the Fremont facility.

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