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Celera Acquires Axys Pharmaceuticals in Push to Accelerate Drug Discovery Capabilities

NEW YORK, June 13 - Celera Genomics will acquire Axys Pharmaceuticals in an effort to support Celera s drug discovery capabilities, the companies said Wednesday. 

Under the stock-for-stock transaction, Axys shareholders will receive $4.65 per share based upon Celera's closing stock price of $41.75 Tuesday. 

Axys, whose shares closed at $3.45 Tuesday, reported 37.3 million shares outstanding in its first-quarter 2001 earnings, which brings the total value of the transaction to around $173.4 million.

Celera of Rockvile, Md., said it expects that Axys' experience in the development of small molecule therapeutics will complement its capabilities in generating and analyzing genomic data. Axys offers chemical libraries and facilities, high-throughput screening, medicinal chemistry, structural biology, and pre-clinical capabilities that will support Celera's efforts to identify and optimize small molecule therapeutic candidates for its genomic and proteomics discoveries. 

Under the merger, Axys' staff of chemists and biologists will be combined with Celera's scientific teams. Michael Venuti, Axys' senior vice president for research and development, will report to Craig Venter, Celera's president and chief executive officer. Paul Hastings, Axys president and chief executive officer, will report to Celera's chief operating office, Peter Chambre. 

Currently based in South San Francisco, Calif., Axys also expects to complete an additional 43,000 square foot, medicinal chemistry facility later this year. 

Axys has partnered with several pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, and Bayer AG in collaborations addressing osteoporosis, asthma, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular disease. "We believe Celera will add value to these relationships, and we will continue to look for other collaborations that could utilize the combined capabilities of Axys and Celera," said Tony White, CEO of Celera's parent company, Applera, in a statement.  

"Building on its genomic and proteomic platform, Celera is now focused on the identification and evaluation of therapeutic targets that could form the basis of potential new treatments or cures for human disease," said Venter. "Medicinal chemistry and high-throughput screening capabilities are critical elements to turn these discoveries into important therapeutic agents and move Celera to the next stage as a more fully integrated discovery and development company."
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