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Eye on Dx, Osmetech Drops Blood Gas Business

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In an effort to focus squarely on molecular diagnostics, Osmetech last month decided to sell its profitable critical care blood gas and electrolyte instrument business to IDEXX Laboratories for $44.9 million in cash.

The sale, scheduled to be completed this month upon agreement by both firms' shareholders, is expected to provide Osmetech's molecular diagnostics division with enough funding to finish developing several new diagnostic assays based on its eSensor microarray platform. The proceeds are also expected to expand its sales and marketing and R&D resources with an eye on future acquisitions.
Since Osmetech acquired the critical care division in 2003 from Roche for $2.7 million, the London-based company has centered its business on the Atlanta-based unit and built up a reliable revenue stream based on new product launches and sales of consumables.

As Osmetech noted in a statement on Dec. 18, 2006, the critical care division generated $8.6 million in sales in the first six months of 2006 out of total sales of $9.5 million. Meantime, the company said that initial customer consumable usage rates in the molecular diagnostic business should amount to approximately $75,000 per year. Osmetech acknowledged that the molecular diagnostics division's revenues were not significant, but says that the preliminary usage rates were "significantly higher than Critical Care customers and expected to grow further."

"Now we have just one business to focus on. It sends a much clearer message to our investors that we are going to focus on larger growth and a future market," says Bruce Huebner, president of Osmetech's Pasadena, Calif.-based molecular diagnostics division. "This sale will generate a significant amount of cash that will allow us to expand our molecular line and to look for other opportunities and potential acquisitions."

— Justin Petrone

Short reads

Roche Diagnostics has severed its four-year-old cancer screening collaboration with Epigenomics. According to Roche, the company abandoned the partnership after concluding that Epigenomics' colorectal cancer screening data did not meet its standards for development as in vitro tests.

Epitome Biosystems has recently received a $500,000 SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation. The company will put funds toward developing an antibody array that incorporates the company's EpiTag platform to measure protein phosphorylation.

Illumina has sold 1,000 of its HumanHap550 BeadChips to GlaxoSmithKline under an agreement wherein GSK will use Illumina's hardware and services at a third party facility. According to Illumina, the deal is a continuation of an existing genotyping arrangement between the two companies.

Affymetrix has retained Sysmex, a Japanese lab diagnostics company, to sell its diagnostic arrays in Japan. The deal also enables Sysmex to develop and market its own in vitro diagnostics based on Affy's GeneChip platform.

Agilent Technologies has granted Empire Genomics and Welgene Biotech membership to its Certified Microarray Service Providers program. According to the company, the service program includes training and assessments with its 60-mer oligo microarrays.

Patents

US Patent 7,157,227. Microarrays to screen regulatory genes. Inventor: Eugenia Wang. Assignee: University of Louisville Research Foundation. Issued: January 2, 2007.

The abstract for this patent describes a regulatory-sequence-based microarray for screening genes whose expression is altered by disease, age, or exogenous agents. The microarray "is composed of genes whose non-coding region contains the same defined nucleotide bases for enhancers or repressors" and "genes whose protein products can bind to designated regulatory sequences." 

US Patent 7,157,564. Tag nucleic acids and probe arrays. Inventors: Michael Mittmann, Morris MacDonald, Thomas B. Ryder, David Lockhart. Assignee: Affymetrix. Issued: January 2, 2007.

This patent covers a unique set of nucleic acid sequences for use in a variety of applications requiring nucleic acid tags, such as labeling biological materials and genotyping. The invention provides sets of tag sequences, sequence kits, and methods of using tag sequences which hybridize effectively with their complementary probe sequences, with minimal cross-hybridization between the different tag sequences, states the patent.

 

Data point

200,000

The number of feature arrays Agilent added to its expression line through a series of density upgrades last year, boosting the number of arrays from 44,000 to 244,000.