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Biosite, Beckman, Illumina, Caliper, EPA, Pfizer, OGT, ABI, Ciphergen

Biosite to Discuss Inverness Bid; Beckman Says Its Offer is Superior
 
Biosite this week said that it will start discussions with Inverness Medical Innovations about Inverness’ offer to buy the company for $90 a share.
 
Biosite said its board of directors and financial and legal advisors think Inverness’s offer “is reasonably likely to lead to a superior proposal” than the one it accepted from Beckman Coulter two weeks ago. Beckman late last month offered to buy the company for $85 a share, or around $1.55 billion (see BioCommerce Week 3/28/2007).
 
In response, Beckman CEO Scott Garrett said this week that his company has waived a two-day period that Biosite agreed to before it could negotiate with other companies. Garrett said his company hopes to resolve the uncertainty in the marketplace that the Inverness offer could generate.
 
Garrett also restated his view that Inverness’s offer is shaky due to its conditional and uncertain terms, and that it “should give the Biosite board and its stockholders enormous pause.” Garrett also said he views Inverness’s financing commitments as containing remarkably broad conditions and contingencies.
 
Beckman has not said whether it was considering raising its offer to match that of Inverness.
 
Biosite said its board has not withdrawn, qualified, modified, changed, or amended its recommendations to the company about the Beckman agreement, and said that for the time being that agreement remains in effect.
 
Earlier in the week, Inverness, which owns 5 percent of Biosite’s shares, expressed “dismay” that Biosite had not responded to its unsolicited offer last week to buy the remaining 95 percent of the company.
 

 
Illumina to Move Some Connecticut Operations to San Diego
 
Illumina plans to shutter its manufacturing operations in Wallingford, Conn., and fold some of the assets from the space into its San Diego facilities, the company said this week.
 
The Wallingford site was originally established in connection with the company’s 2005 acquisition of CyVera, and has helped Illumina develop and manufacture the BeadXpress system. The platform debuted last month.
 
Illumina CEO Jay Flatley said that the company decided to consolidate the Connecticut facility after its recent acquisition of Solexa enabled the company to evaluate “all of our operations.” He said that combining the operations “will provide us with efficiencies from both the manufacturing and development perspective.”
 
It was not immediately clear whether the step would result in lay-offs.
 
Flatley said Illumina will concentrate its R&D and manufacturing work in San Diego and in its facility in Little Chesterford, UK.
 
The company said it will incur roughly $2 million in incremental charges related to the consolidation, and expects that the move will be completed “over the course of 2007."
 

 
Caliper Inks Collaborations with EPA, Pfizer
 
Caliper Life Sciences this week said the US Environmental Protection Agency has contracted the company for a multi-year toxicity project that could be worth between $1.4 million and $69 million.
 
Caliper said the EPA has hired its NovaScreen Biosciences branch to work with the agency’s ToxCast program to help predict how chemicals such as pesticides will interact with the environment, humans, and animals.
 
Caliper said it will use biochemical and cell-based assays, screening tools, and its side-effect database to offer lab testing and analysis for a broad range of specific protein targets. 
 
The size and duration of the contract will be based on the volume of testing the EPA requests and on the availability of funds, the company said.
 
In a separate announcement, Caliper said that its Discovery Alliances & Services division will conduct in vivo profiling services for Pfizer. Under the one-year contract, Caliper said it will use its in vivo compound profiling platform to study the effects of acute or chronic drug dosing in mice to try and uncover new uses for compounds already in development.
 
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
 

 
USPTO Grants Law Firm’s Request to Re-Examine OGT Patents
 
The US Patent and Trade Organization recently granted a request by a law firm to re-examine two Oxford Genome Technology patents.
 
Attorney Martin Fliesler of San Francisco-based law firm Fliesler Meyer informed BioCommerce Week via a letter this week that the USPTO has accepted its request for an ex parte re-examination of US Patent No. 5,700,637, “Apparatus and method for analyzing polynucleotide sequences and method of generating arrays”, and US Patent No. 6,054,270, “Analyzing polynucleotide sequences.”
 
According to USPTO documents, it granted Fliesler Meyer’s request to re-examine two claims in the ‘270 patent on February 21 and granted its request to reexamine one claim in the ‘637 patent on March 22 because it saw a “substantial new question of patentability” with regards to the claims.
 
OGT now has a two-month window from each USPTO order to respond for the purposes of the re-examination, according to the documents. OGT could not be reached for comment.
 
Fliesler wrote last week that because the requests have been granted it believes “that they will result in the narrowing or cancellation of claims in the patents.”
 
“Although still enforceable during and after re-examination, these patents may have their strength significantly diminished after the reexamination process,” he wrote.
 
Fliesler Meyer filed the requests on behalf of an undisclosed party in January. While OGT sells array products for such applications as comparative genomic hybridization and ChIP-on-chip, licensing and protecting its patent estate is a substantial part of its business.
 

 
ABI Introduces New Thermal Cycler Technology
 
Applied Biosystems announced this week that it has introduced its Veriti 96-well thermal cycler, which uses a temperature-control technology that is expected increase the accuracy and efficiency of performing PCR.
 
The thermal cycler contains ABI’s VeriFlex Blocks. Through this technology, six separately controlled alloy blocks allow users to set specific temperatures that won’t encroach on neighboring zones, according to an ABI statement.
 

 
Ciphergen Has ‘Substantial Doubts’ About Its Ability to Stay in Business
 
Ciphergen Biosystems and its outside auditor are concerned that the company may not be able to continue operating as a going concern, the firm said in its annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. 
 
“We believe that our current cash balances may not be sufficient to fund planned expenditures,” Ciphergen reported in the filing, released on April 2. “This raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.
 
“During 2007, we may have to raise additional funds through the issuance of equity or debt securities, or a combination thereof, in the public or private markets in order to continue operations,” the company added.
 
The company’s auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, gave a similar opinion in the filing.