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Chasing IPO, Helicos Hints at Acquisitions

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In late February, Helicos BioSciences filed documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that aim to take the company public on the Nasdaq exchange.

The filing for an IPO, which would make Helicos the only publicly traded pure-play DNA sequencing company, comes less than a year before it plans to commercialize its first product, the HeliScope DNA sequencer, and more than a year before it anticipates generating revenue.

Helicos still needs to decide how many shares it wants to float in its IPO, and at what price, although it said it hopes the proceeds will meet its needs for at least two years.

The firm’s ability to reach its financing goals will hinge on convincing investors that its single-molecule sequencing technology can outperform its competitors — even though it has not yet publicly shown data from a sequencing project that prove the instrument’s performance.

Also, the company hinted that it “may acquire technologies, products, or companies that we feel could accelerate our ability to compete in our core markets.”

“If [the technology] is able to shorten various analytical processes, or it opens up a whole new area that wasn’t available beforehand, the novelty of it, the efficiency of it, the cost-effectiveness of it, these are all considerations [for the IPO pricing],” says David Menlow, president and CEO of IPOfinanical.com, an IPO research service based in Millburn, NJ.

But since the company is not the first in the next-generation sequencing space, “that’s already a problem” that gives competitors the chance to “be the first one ringing the doorbell at all these companies that might be able to utilize the process,” Menlow says.
454 might be the next candidate to file for an IPO: CuraGen said last summer it had engaged an investment bank to determine its “strategic options” for the unit. Although the company did not elaborate on that, industry observers have said an IPO is one possibility.                        

Julia Karow

Short Reads

Agencourt Bioscience is working with scientists at the US Department of Agriculture and at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute to test and compare Applied Biosystems’, Illumina’s, and Roche/454’s next-generation sequencing platforms for whole-genome microbial resequencing.

In their ongoing project, Agencourt and its collaborators plan to resequence a mutant form of the yeast Pichia stipitis on the SOLiD platform, 454’s Genome Sequencer, and Illumina’s Genetic Analyzer, and want to compare the results with the wild type genome.

GATC Biotech installed 454’s Genome Sequencer FLX System in its core lab in Konstanz, Germany, late this winter. GATC says it will use the FLX to focus on “in-depth analysis of whole transcriptomes,” but also will provide customers with all available FLX applications.

Researchers have sequenced the genomes of more than 2,000 influenza viruses and have deposited the data in GenBank. The Institute for Genomic Research led the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project, which took place at the Microbial Sequencing Centers, part of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Researchers at Yale University have used 454 Life Sciences’ technology to sequence the genome of Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacterium that is responsible for highly drug-resistant infections in hospitals.

Patents

US Patent 7,188,030. Automatic threshold setting for quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Inventors: Lesley Ward, Adrian Jensen, Justin Lyon, Cameron McLeman, and Bryan Tysinger. Assignee: Applera. Issued: March 6, 2007.

This patent covers systems for identifying and quantifying “the presence of one or more DNA species in a sample population through PCR amplification. DNA species [quantification] includes a determination of a threshold fluorescence value used in the assessment of the PCR amplification reaction,” according to the abstract.

US Patent 7,179,602. Methods for sequencing GC-rich and CCT repeat DNA templates. Inventor: Donna Robinson. Assignee: Los Alamos National Security. Issued: February 20, 2007.

This invention “is directed to a PCR-based method of cycle sequencing DNA and other polynucleotide sequences having high CG content and regions of high GC content, and includes for example DNA strands with a high cytosine and/or guanosine content and repeated motifs such as CCT repeats.”

Data Point

250 million

According to the results of a Cancer Genome Project study run by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, more mutated genes drive cancer development than was previously thought. The researchers sequenced more than 250 million letters of DNA code, including more than 500 genes and 200 cancers.