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Beckman Buys Agencourt; Is ABI Under Pressure?

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A little more than a month after CEO Scott Garrett said in a webcast that Beckman Coulter would look to bolster revenues partially through entering new markets, the firm has made a move to do just that by agreeing to acquire Agencourt Bioscience, a privately held provider of DNA sequencing services.

In addition to sequencing services, the deal, worth around $140 million in cash to Beckman, would enable the company to compete in the potentially lucrative next-generation DNA sequencing instrument market. Agencourt is working on a sequencing-by-synthesis technology that would enable Fullerton, Calif.-based Beckman to take aim at a number of small players working on cheaper and faster DNA sequencing technologies as well as the standard capillary electrophoresis instruments made by industry leaders Applied Biosystems and GE Healthcare.

The acquisition also points out the dichotomy in the field between making and selling the DNA sequencing instruments on the one hand and providing DNA sequencing services on the other: As demand and corresponding sales for DNA sequencing instruments have dropped in recent years — ABI said this spring that it “remains concerned” with its sequencing business — the market for DNA sequencing services has remained fairly strong.

“The service business is doing very well,” says Lynne Doucette-Stamm, Agencourt’s vice president of business development. “We are seeing a shift again back to outsourcing of sequencing, where a number of pharma companies...[are] now saying, ‘Let’s just send it to the experts.’”

Agencourt also has in the works a sequencing-by-synthesis technology based on the polony technique developed in George Church’s Harvard lab. A planned spin-off, called Agencourt Personal Genomics, will continue to work on the technology, which is in a race to the market against several other efforts from startups including 454 Life Sciences, Solexa, Nanofluidics, Helicos Biosciences, AQI Sciences, VisiGen Biotechnologies, and GenoVoxx.

— Edward Winnick

 

Patent Watch

US Patent 6,892,141. Primer design system. Inventors: Hiroki Nakae, Sigeo Ihara. Assignee: Hitachi. Issued: May 10, 2005.

According to the abstract, this patent covers a “primer design system in which DNA nucleotide sequences are obtained from a database comprising a plurality of different DNA nucleotide sequences, and the nucleotide sequences of primers capable of hybridizing specifically to the DNA thus obtained are determined. A plurality of primers capable of hybridizing specifically to mutually different DNAs can be efficiently designed.”

 

US Patent 6,892,139. Determining the functions and interactions of proteins by comparative analysis. Inventors: David Eisenberg, Sergio Rotstein, Edward Marcotte. Assignee: The Regents of the University of California. Issued: May 10, 2005.

This invention relates to “a novel method for identifying a nucleic acid or a polypeptide sequence that may be a target for a drug ... [or] may be essential for the growth or viability of an organism.” The patent also includes a computational system to accomplish this.

 

Datapoint

$32.5 million

Amount of private-equity financing rounded up by Solexa, which says it will use the money to develop and launch its sequencing-by-synthesis technology.

 

Scientists have sequenced the genome of rice pathogen Magnaporthe grisea, bringing the draft genome to an estimated size of 40.3 megabases. M. grisea, which serves as the main model organism to study the molecular basis of fungal disease in plants, was sequenced by a consortium of researchers led by Bruce Birren of the Broad Institute and Ralph Dean of North Carolina State University.

 

Sydney Brenner has co-founded a company to develop a new technology that will obtain sequence information simultaneously from thousands of genomes, according to the Wellcome Trust. The startup, Population Genetics Technologies, was awarded a £1.1 million grant from the Trust. Sam Eletr will serve as acting CEO, and Mark Treherne will chair the board of directors.

 

Applied Biosystems announced that DNA sequencing revenues increased 3 percent year-over-year, bringing in $141 million. Overall, the company’s revenue for the fiscal third quarter increased by 1 percent.

 

Optical mapping firm OpGen signed an exclusive distribution deal for its whole genome analysis system with M&S Instruments of Japan.

 

Genizon BioScience, formerly known as Galileo Genomics, spent $4.8 million for certain assets and staff of Global Genomics, a Swedish company developing new DNA sequencing technology. The assets include the sequencing technology, related patents, and data analysis algorithms.

 

The Scan

Just Breathing

A new analysis suggests that most Mycobacterium tuberculosis is spread by aerosols from breathing, rather than by coughing, the New York Times reports.

Just Like This One

NPR reports that the World Health Organization has hired a South African biotech company to recreate mRNA vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 that is similar to the one developed by Moderna.

Slow Start

The Wall Street Journal reports that Biogen's Alzheimer's disease treatment had revenues for July through September that totaled $300,000.

Genome Research Papers on Cancer Chromatin, Splicing in the Thymus, Circular RNAs in Cancer

In Genome Research this week: analysis of bivalent chromatin sites, RBFOX splicing factors' role in thymic epithelial cells, and more.