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Celera, Abbott Labs to Develop New PCR Tool for Diagnostics Market

This article has been updated from an earlier version. Details from a conference call are added throughout.


NEW YORK, June 25 - Celera Diagnostics and Abbott Labs will develop and market a "broad range" of in vitro molecular diagnostics, including a new DNA sequencer, to detect and monitor a variety of diseases, the companies said today.

The firms will develop a PCR tool based on the Applied Biosystems PRISM 7000. Designed to help monitor infectious diseases and viral loads, the tool will be built and housed at ABI, though Abbott will help promote and sell it in the $700 million global molecular diagnostics market, an Applera official said.

On the diagnostics side, "initially" 250 scientists and engineers from both firms will hunt markers to infectious diseases, cancer, central nervous system disorders, and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. It was not immediately clear to what extent this workforce will grow or shrink.

Celera Diagnostics will focus on discovering and validating genetic markers and developing assays while Abbott, the second-largest in vitro diagnostics shop in the world, concentrates on developing, selling, and marketing any products that arise. The companies stressed they will not try to develop proteins, immunoassays, or products for either the research or pharmaceutical markets.

Under the terms of the agreement, which is Celera Diagnostics' premiere alliance since it was formed slightly more than one year ago, the companies will split evenly all expenses, losses, or profits tied to researching, developing, manufacturing, and commercializing products.

The partners agreed to share each other's technologies. For example, on July 1 Celera Diagnostics will contribute its HIV and cystic-fibrosis genotyping and HLA assays as Abbott antes up its HIV and hepatitis C viral-load assays, according to a Celera spokeswoman.

Next summer Abbott will contribute assays for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and cystic fibrosis, the spokeswoman, Lori Murray, said. As many as 20 more diseases have been targeted, she added.

In a conference call this morning, Kathy Ordoñez, president of Celera Diagnostics, stressed that the collaboration "reduces the risk" of the company not reaching profitability by the end of 2005 or 2006. She added that the partnership will not speed the forecast, originally made earlier this year.

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