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Beckman Coulter, Invitrogen, Harvard University, EMD, Luminex, Rules-Based Medicine, Third Wave Technologies, Abbott Laboratories, Roche, Ventana Medical Systems

Beckman Coulter Inks Cardio, Hypertension Biomarker Pact; Bank Upgrades Stock Rating
 
Beckman Coulter has started a research collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University of Philadelphia and the Laboraf Diagnostica e Ricerca San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, to study genetic signatures for cardiovascular disease and obesity-related hypertension.
 
Under the collaboration, the universities and the company are using the company's Biomek FXP Laboratory Automation Workstation and GenomeLab SNPStream Genotyping System to develop research protocols and assays. Beckman Coulter will have the right to exclusively license commercial applications that result from the collaboration.
 
Beckman intends to use the genetic signatures discovered in the alliance to develop content for its next-generation molecular diagnostics platform, which it plans to launch in 2010.
 
“The discovery of genetic factors for both CVD and obesity may lead to development of readily-accessible diagnostic tests that enable more rapid assessment, earlier treatment, and preventive measures,” Bruce Wallace, president of Beckman Coulter’s molecular diagnostics business center, said in a statement last week.
 
Separately this week, Banc of America analyst Jon Wood raised his rating on shares of Beckman Coulter’s stock to “buy” from “neutral” and increased his price target on the stock to $85 per share from $68. Beckman’s shares closed at $73.47 in Tuesday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
 

 
Invitrogen Licenses Harvard’s Click Chemistry for Cell-Based Assays
 
Invitrogen has licensed cell proliferation assay technology from Harvard University that it will use in its click chemistry technology-related programs, the company said this week.
 
The company said it is adding the Harvard technology to its click chemistry IP portfolio, which includes a license from the Scripps Research Institute and agreements with the University of California, Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, and the National Institutes of Health.
 
Those licenses are for marketing Click-iT kits for glycoprotein profiling that allow researchers to label glycoprotein subsets in live cells and in extracts or purified samples.
 
The license for Harvard’s IP will allow Invitrogen’s researchers “to examine cell proliferation in parallel with other biomarkers,” Invitrogen VP and GM of Cellular Analysis Augie Sick said in a statement.
 
This ability will enhance the “power of this fundamental method for assessing cell health, determining genotoxicity and evaluating anti-cancer drugs,” Sick continued.
 
The company also said it is developing new click chemistry applications, such as protein synthesis detection. Invitrogen said the click technology is suitable for flow cytometry, fluorescence microscopy, and high-content screening.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
 

 
EMD to Manufacture Assays for Luminex’s xMAP Platform, Distribute RBM Assays
 
Luminex has granted EMD Chemicals, a subsidiary of Germany’s Merck KGaA, a license to develop multiplex immunoassays for the xMAP technology platform, EMD said last week.
 
EMD said it plans to develop multiplex assays for the xMAP under its Novagen brand to detect the phosphorylation status of proteins in disease-related signaling pathways.
 
EMD VP of Corporate Development Lisa Johnson said the advantages of multiplex protein analysis include the ability to perform different assays on one sample in single reaction results, which saves time and samples and reduces labor and reagent costs.
In a separate announcement this week, EMD said that it would partner with Rules-Based Medicine to develop and distribute immunoassay products for use on Luminex’s xMAP platform.
 
Under the terms of the agreement, biomarker testing firm RBM is providing EMD with exclusive distribution rights to its catalog of quantitative protein multiplex assays.EMD will market RBM’s testing content in co-branded multi-analyte kits under the Novagen brand.
 
The kits will be available in the middle of 2008 and will be marketed to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and universities.
 
RBM was spun off from Luminex in September 2002.
 
Financial terms of the agreements were not released.
 

 
Third Wave Gets CE Mark for HPV Test, Secures $25M Line of Credit
 
Third Wave Technologies announced last week that European regulatory authorities granted the CE Mark for the firm’s molecular diagnostic test for human papillomavirus.
 
The clearance from the European Union gives the company the green light to sell the test, which detects 14 high-risk types of HPV and is used in screening for cervical cancer, in EU member nations and in other nations that recognize the CE mark.
 
The company said it expects to market the test in Europe in January 2008.
 
Third Wave’s test will join several other molecular diagnostic tests for HPV on the European market, including assays sold by Qiagen, Roche, Biotools, and bioMérieux. Qiagen is the only firm to have both European and US clearance to sell its HPV molecular diagnostic test.
 
In a separate announcement this week, Third Wave said that it has secured a five-year, $25 million line of credit with healthcare investment company Deerfield Management.
 
Third Wave said it may use the extra capital to market its HPV tests.
 
The company said any funds it borrows under the facility will have a 7.75 percent interest rate, and an annual two percent non-usage fee will be assessed on the amount the company does not draw.
 
Third Wave also said it has issued a five-year warrant to Deerfield to buy 1.815 million of its shares for $8.36 a share. 
 

 
IP Services Firm Files for Reexamination of Abbott Multiplex PCR Patent
 
Troll Busters, an intellectual property services firm that specializes in challenging the validity or claims of certain patents, last week announced that it has filed a brief with the US Patent and Trademark Office for reexamination of a patent covering multiplex PCR-based diagnostics.
 
The patent at issue, No. 5,582,989, is entitled “Multiplex genomic DNA amplification for deletion detection,” and covers a method for detecting multiple DNA sequences simultaneously. Multiplex, PCR-based genetic tests may fall under the broad-based claims of the patent.
 
Baylor College of Medicine is listed as the assignee of the patent, which was granted in December 1996. The patent is exclusively licensed to Abbott Laboratories.
 
The claims in the patent “are overly broad,” Jeff Oster, founder of Troll Busters, told BioCommerce Week sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News. “There is prior art, there’s new prior art that was not considered during the US application, and the US file history had a lot of flaws in it,” he added.
 
Oster said the USPTO generally takes around three months to decide whether it will reexamine the patent.
 

 
Roche to Nominate Candidates for Ventana’s Board
 
In another strategic move in its attempt to acquire Ventana Medical Systems, Roche plans to nominate four independent candidates for Ventana’s board of directors, Roche said in a statement last week.
 
Roche also hopes to change Ventana’s bylaws to remove its classified board and reduce its number of directors from 10 to seven.
 
Roche has renewed several times a bid to take over Ventana for $75 a share, or around $3 billion, which was a 55 percent premium over Ventana’s value over the three months before the late-June offer.
 
After vehemently rejecting the offer as inadequate, due to some expectations Ventana has about its future prospects and its “synergistic value to Roche,” the company agreed last month to open its books to show why it believes Roche’s offer undervalues the company.
 
"We have taken this step, as required by Ventana's bylaws, because we are committed to pursuing the acquisition of Ventana,“ said Roche CEO and Chairman Franz Humer. “However, we continue to prefer a negotiated transaction."
 
Roche said it plans to nominate Dwight Crane, John Jones, Loring Knoblauch, and Michael Kranda to Ventana’s board of directors. If Ventana’s shareholders elect these nominees and agree to the proposed changes in bylaws, Roche also would nominate Bary Bailey, Jay Hunt, and Anthony Wild to fill the remaining three seats on the board.
 
Ventana’s shares closed at $88.21 in Nasdaq trading Tuesday.

The Scan

J&J Booster Support

A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted to support a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

To Keep the Cases Moving

The president of the UK Royal College of Pathologists tells the Financial Times that more investment is needed to tackle a backlog of cases.

NAS Expels Archaeologist

Science reports Luis Jaime Castillo Butters' expulsion is the first of an international member from the US National Academy of Sciences.

PLOS Papers on Angelman Syndrome-Like Cases, Salmonella Paratyphi A, SARS-CoV-2 in Brazil

In PLOS this week: exome sequencing analysis of Angelman syndrome-like cases, genetic epidemiology of Salmonella Paratyphi A, and more.