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Beckman Coulter, Agencourt Bioscience, Thermo Electron, Solexa

Beckman to Buy Agencourt For Up to $140M; Plans New 'Personal Genomics' Spin-Off

Beckman Coulter intends to purchase Agencourt Bioscience for up to $140 million in cash, the companies said this week.

Beckman plans to acquire all of Agencourt's outstanding stock for $100 million in cash and make up to $40 million in contingent payments through 2007. Following the acquisition, which is expected to close near the end of May, Agencourt will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Beckman, and will remain based in Beverly, Mass.

Agencourt's management team and its workforce of about 100 will remain in place, according to the company.

In addition, Agencourt and Beckman plan a spin-off, to be called Agencourt Personal Genomics, which will develop a "sequencing by synthesis" approach for sequencing individuals' genomes.

Agencourt provides genome-sequencing services and a bead-based nucleic acid purification technology called SPRI. It is one of five large-scale sequencing centers funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Additionally, Beckman Coulter is preparing to take possession of a newly constructed 138-acre Chino South Business Park in southern California, according to local news reports. Beckman is headquartered in Fullerton, located southwest of Chino.

Thermo's Revenues Grow 7 Percent in Q1

Thermo Electron this week reported a 7-percent increase in revenues and a 13-percent jump in earnings for the first quarter of 2005.

Revenues for the three-month period ended March 31 grew to $559.2 million from $525 million during the same period in 2004. Most of this increase resulted from acquisitions, according to the company. Thermo's Life and Laboratory Sciences unit, which also sells mass spectrometers for proteomics, had $393.3 million in revenues, an 8-percent increase from $365.5 million during the year-ago quarter.

R&D expenses in the period almost doubled to $7.4 million from $3.8 million during last year's first quarter.

Thermo's net income for the quarter grew to $48.9 million, or $.30 per share, up from $43.1 million, or $.26 per share, during the same quarter last year.

As of April 2, Thermo had $351.6 million in cash and cash equivalents, and $177 million in short-term available-for-sale investments.

Scientists Sequence Genome of Rice Pathogen M. grisea

Scientists have sequenced the genome sequence of the rice pathogen Magnaprothe grisea.

According to the researchers, M. grisea is the most destructive pathogen of rice worldwide. The fungus serves as the principal model organism for elucidating the molecular basis of fungal disease in plants.

M. grisea's genome, published in draft form in last week's issue of Nature, encodes a large and diverse set of secreted proteins, including a number with unusual carbohydrate-binding domains, the scientists said. Experiments showed that several genes involved in fungal pathogenesis are upregulated during the early stages of infection-related development.

For the draft genome, 2,273 sequence contigs of longer than 2 kilobases in length were sequenced, the scientists said. The contigs are ordered and orientated within 159 scaffolds. The total length of all the sequence contigs is 38.8 megabases, and the total length of the scaffolds, including estimated sizes for gaps, is 40.3 Mb.

This is the first analysis of the genome of a plant pathogenic fungus, the scientists wrote.

The scientific consortium, which included over 35 scientists from the US, England, France and Korea, was led by Bruce Birren of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Ralph Dean of the Center for Integrated Fungal Research at North Carolina State University.

Solexa Secures $32.5M Financing

Solexa, which is developing a DNA sequencing technology, last week announced it has secured $32.5 million in private-equity financing led by ValueAct Capital of San Francisco.

The company said it intends to use the cash to develop and launch its sequencing-by-synthesis instrument, and to repay a loan to Silicon Valley Bank.

All of Solexa's previous venture capital investors, including funds affiliated with Abingworth Management, Amadeus Capital Partners, Oxford Bioscience Partners and SV Life Sciences, will be investing a total of approximately $10.8 million in the financing at the second closing of the financing and have entered into agreements with Solexa to vote in favor of the financing at the 2005 annual meeting, the company said.

Mason Morfit, a partner with ValueAct Capital, which once held 22 percent of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, will join Solexa's board.

Terms of the recent financing call for Solexa to sell approximately 8.1 million shares of common stock at $4 per share and will issue warrants to purchase approximately 4.1 million shares at $5 apiece. Approximately 2.1 million shares of common stock and approximately 1.1 million warrants will be issued in a closing expected at the end of April, and the balance of approximately 6 million shares of common stock and warrants to purchase approximately 3 million shares of common stock will be issued on the same terms in a second closing subject to stockholder approval at the 2005 annual meeting.

The Scan

Sick Newborns Selected for WGS With Automated Pipeline

Researchers successfully prioritized infants with potential Mendelian conditions for whole-genome sequencing or rapid whole-genome sequencing, as they report in Genome Medicine.

Acne-Linked Loci Found Through GWAS Meta-Analysis

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics find new and known acne vulgaris risk loci with a genome-wide association study and meta-analysis, highlighting hair follicle- and metabolic disease-related genes.

Retina Cell Loss Reversed by Prime Editing in Mouse Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa

A team from China turns to prime editing to correct a retinitis pigmentosa-causing mutation in the PDE6b gene in a mouse model of the progressive photoreceptor loss condition in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

CRISPR Screens Reveal Heart Attack-Linked Gene

Researchers in PLOS Genetics have used CRISPR screens to home in on variants associated with coronary artery disease that affect vascular endothelial function.