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DoubleTwist Crashes and Burns; Assets Are Put on the Block

SAN FRANCISCO, March 11 - After months of layoffs and near-death spasms, DoubleTwist has closed its doors.

 

"It was decided that the money wasn't there to continue operations," said Nicole Litchfield, a former spokesperson for the beleaguered bioinformatics company. "The plan is to sell intellectual property assets and anything else that they can get value out of. [The company] is looking for buyers."

 

Employees were told on Thursday that the company was ceasing operations and were given the opportunity on Friday to move out personal belongings from the downtown Oakland, Calif., headquarters. Rumors about the closure began sprouting on Friday, and GenomeWeb was able to confirm the rumors on Monday.

 

"People were in OK spirits," Litchfield said of the mood on Friday. "It's been a long road to this."

 

There were approximately 60 employees at DoubleTwist at the time it closed, according to a source close to the company.

 

Calls to the company headquarters are answered with a recorded message announcing that the company is "currently closed."

 

The company's website, www.doubletwist.com, is still up though information about company management and its board of directors has been removed and all links are redirected to the homepage.

 

Litchfield did not know if the online business was still operational as of Monday.

 

DoubleTwist was founded in 1993 as Pangea Systems and changed its name in 1999 when it expanded its bioinformatics products to online services. In the past year, the company shelved its IPO plans, failed to find suitors to offer enough cash to cover investments, slashed its staff from 200 to 60, and overhauled its management, including removing John Couch from his CEO post and replacing him with President and Chief Operation Officer Robert Williamson. Couch remained on as chairman of the board.

 

In spite of these last-ditch efforts, the new brass appeared optimistic about the future of DoubleTwist as late as mid-January. In an interview with BioInform, one of GenomeWeb's sister publications, the new CEO said that not only is his company not about to collapse, but it is on the road to profitability.

"The company is on track to achieve cash-positive operations this year thanks to our dedicated customers and low-cost structure," Williamson told BioInform. "We are well positioned to remain a leading competitor in the market for high-quality genomic data and bioinformatics tools."

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