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Leroy Hood, David Della Penta, Invitrogen, Quantum Dot, Dharmacon, Alnylam, ABI, Hitachi, Invitrogen, Morphotek, PerkinElmer, Luminex, Keygene, Roche, Fisher, Dyomics, BD, GeneOhm, Affy

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Laboratory Corporation of America and Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, have signed a strategic consulting agreement, the company said this week.

Under the agreement, Hood will work with LabCorp to develop programs that integrate medicine and molecular diagnostics at LabCorp. Additional details were not disclosed.


David Della Penta will retire as president and COO of Fisher Scientific at the end of the year, the company said this week. Della Penta joined Fisher in 1998. The company said it will announce its plans for his replacement later this year.

BioCommerce Briefs

Embarking in New Direction, Invitrogen to Develop ‘Consumable’
Instruments; Quantum Dot Assets Could Play Role

Invitrogen plans to develop instruments, acknowledging for the first time that it intends to expand beyond its consumables and services offerings, a company official said yesterday.

Speaking at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, held here this week, Chairman and CEO Greg Lucier said the instruments would be based on the "unique abilities" of the firm's reagents. Specifically, he cited the technology the firm gained through its acquisition of Quantum Dot as a possible base for the development (see 10/13/2005 BioCommerce Week).

According to Lucier, the goal is to develop hardware that would be considered "consumable" and could be disposed of after a short period of use. This would disqualify capital equipment such as mass spec and liquid chromatography.

Lucier did not disclose what kind of instruments or the applications they would target. He also did not provide a timeline on when the firm expects to market such instrumentation.

Invitrogen has long eschewed the equipment market in favor of the more predictable sales that accompany reagents and other consumables. It has focused primarily on building its molecular diagnostics and protein offerings through several acquisitions over the past two years.

During a breakout session following the firm's presentation, Lucier also stressed that Invitrogen's plans for the molecular diagnostics market is focused on some "high-margin areas," and the firm has no plans to become a clinical diagnostics company. He said that if Invitrogen wanted to buy a clinical diagnostics business it has the resources to do it, but it has no plans to take the company in that direction.


Fisher's Dharmacon Licenses RNAi Patents from Alnylam

Alnylam has granted Dharmacon a non-exclusive license to its Kreutzer-Limmer patent family, enabling the Fisher unit to develop and sell certain RNAi research products and services covered by the patents, Alnylam said last week.

The Kreutzer-Limmer family, owned by Alnylam, covers small interfering RNAs and their use to mediate RNAi in mammalian cells. Dharmacon is currently a provider of siRNA reagents, and the Alnylam IP expands its portfolio of internally developed and in-licensed RNAi intellectual property.

Alnylam obtained the rights to the Kreutzer-Limmer patent family, which were awarded in Europe, when it acquired Ribopharma in July 2003. That company is now known as Alnylam Europe. The patent family includes EP Patent No. 1144623, which covers siRNAs up to 25 nucleotides in length having a sequence complementary to a target gene; and EP Patent No. 1214945, which covers compositions, methods, and uses of siRNAs with a length between 15 and 49 nucleotides.

Patents corresponding to these patents have been issued or are pending in many other countries, Alnylam said.


ABI, Hitachi Renew Pact to Develop CE-based Instruments

Applied Biosystems and Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation have renewed and amended a 1997 alliance to co-develop and commercialize capillary electrophoresis-based DNA-analysis technologies, ABI said last week.

Terms of the agreement call for the companies to continue to be exclusive collaborators in the development and commercialization of CE-based instruments for research, applied market, and diagnostic applications. The current product line includes ABI's 3130 and 3730 DNA analyzers.

Katsuji Yamashita, senior vice president of Hitachi High-Technologies, said his company "will also continue to develop new technologies to serve future demands of the genetic analysis market."

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Invitrogen Acquires Morphotek's Cell Line Evolution Service
Business; Inks Deal with DoD for Protein Microarrays

Invitrogen has acquired Morphotek's cell line evolution service business for an undisclosed amount, the company said last week.

Under the transaction, Morphotek retained rights to its Human Morphodoma antibody technology platform.

According to Nicholas Nicolaides, Morphotek's president and CEO, funding from this transaction will support current clinical trials as well as future therapeutic candidates.

Invitrogen is now the exclusive provider of the cell line evolution technology, Revolution, to the biotechnology and agricultural industries, Morphotek said.

Financial terms were of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Invitrogen also announced this week that the US Department of Defense has awarded its Federal Systems subsidiary $970,000 to develop protein microarrays for biothreat agents.

The work is designed to support the US Army Medical Research and Material Command, Invitrogen said. The research will be conducted under the direction of James Meegan, senior director of research and development at Invitrogen; and Robert Ulrich of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Invitrogen's ProtoArray protein microarrays consist of complete sets of pure, functional proteins from specific organisms spotted onto glass slides in a high density configuration. Invitrogen developed them in 2001 as a means to enhance the detection and analysis of biomolecular interactions. They are sold using protein sets derived from both the yeast and human genomes.


PerkinElmer to Standardize Assays on Luminex Platform

Luminex will provide access to PerkinElmer to its xMAP technology and assay-development capabilities, PerkinElmer said this week.

Under the agreement, PerkinElmer will standardize its multiplex assay development on the xMAP platform. The company will use the technology in biomarker panels for pharmaceutical development and ADME/Tox, and to develop in vitro diagnostics in maternal, neonatal, and prenatal health.

Additional details were not disclosed.


Keygene Purchases 454 Sequencer from Roche

Keygene purchased 454's Genome Sequencer 20 system from Roche Diagnostics, the companies announced this week.

Keygene is Roche's first European customer for the sequencing system.

The Genome Sequencer 20 System takes a nanotechnology-based approach to sequencing and was developed by 454 Life Sciences. The system sequences over 20 million bases within a four-and-a-half-hour run, Roche said.

Roche, 454 Life Sciences, and Keygene will use the system with Keygene's AFLP and SNPWave technologies for research in plant genetics.


Fisher, Dyomics Collaborate on Protein-Detection Products

Fisher Biosciences will develop and manufacture protein and nucleic acid-detection products as part of a collaboration with Dyomics, Fisher said this week.

Fisher currently offers protein-research products based primarily on chemiluminescent and colorimetric detection under its Pierce brand. Under the collaboration, the brand will include fluorescently labeled reagents

The parent company of Fisher Biosciences, Fisher Scientific International, recently acquired an equity interest in Dyomics.


BD Acquires GeneOhm for $230 Million

Becton Dickinson has acquired GeneOhm Sciences for $230 million plus up to $25 million in additional incentives, BD said this week.

GeneOhm is a privately held company headquartered in San Diego that develops molecular diagnostics designed to detect bacteria known to cause healthcare-associated infections. BD said that GeneOhm had 2005 revenues of approximately $5 million, and provides BD with expanded entry into the emerging HAI market.

Specifically, GeneOhm markets FDA-cleared IDI-MRSA and IDI-Strep B diagnostic tests. MRSA, also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is responsible for hospital-acquired infections, and Group B Strep poses a risk to pregnant women and their children during the latter stages of pregnancy.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of March 2006. BD also said that the GeneOhm transaction is slightly dilutive. However, it reaffirms its previous guidance that reported diluted earnings per share from continuing operations for fiscal year 2006 are expected to be in the range of $3.15 to $3.19.

BD said it will provide further details around this guidance during its first-quarter earnings call on January 26.


Affymetrix to Open Clinical Lab Business Next Year

Affymetrix will open a clinical lab business next year with an eye toward growing its molecular diagnostics business, CEO Stephen Fodor said this week at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Affymetrix Clinical Laboratories will be based in Sacramento, Calif., and will develop CLIA-certified tests for diagnostic partners based on the firm's GeneChip technology. Fodor said the tests would enable partners to get their assays on the market quicker than developing tests that have to be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration's 510(k) process.

In addition to the clinical lab business, Fodor said Affymetrix has broken ground on a new microarray and reagent-manufacturing facility in Sacramento that is expected to open in 2007.

The firm had some problems with manufacturing capacity during 2005, which partially contributed to a shortfall in fourth-quarter and full-year revenue. In response to those difficulties, Affymetrix expanded its capacity 30 percent during the fourth quarter of 2005, and company officials said the firm would expand manufacturing capacity an additional 30 percent during the first quarter of 2006.

Affymetrix officials also noted at the conference that the firm is leasing a manufacturing facility in Singapore to make instrumentation and they expect to begin manufacturing there in the second half of 2006. The facility is part of Affy's early efforts to expand its operations in Asia. Those plans include setting up offices in Shanghai and collaborating with state labs in China.

Affymetrix also announced this week that it would collaborate with Duke University and Affymetrix to analyze genomic information. Duke researchers will use the GeneChip HT System and arrays as part of the five-year collaboration, Affymetrix said.

As part of the agreement, Affymetrix will fund creative research and clinical projects aimed to lead to new genomic applications on the GeneChip platform, as well as novel diagnostics and screening tests.


ABI to Sell HPLC Systems Based on Eksigent Microfluidics

Eksigent Technologies said last week that it has signed a distribution agreement with Applied Biosystems for a new line of high-performance liquid chromatography systems that will be built upon its Microfluidic Flow Control technology.

The new line of Tempro LC systems will integrate Eksigent's microfluidics with Applied Biosystems/MDS Sciex mass spectrometers.

ABI/MDS Sciex will sell and service the systems, which will include platforms for nano LC, high-throughput micro LC, and an LC-MALDI deposition system.

The Scan

Just Breathing

A new analysis suggests that most Mycobacterium tuberculosis is spread by aerosols from breathing, rather than by coughing, the New York Times reports.

Just Like This One

NPR reports that the World Health Organization has hired a South African biotech company to recreate mRNA vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 that is similar to the one developed by Moderna.

Slow Start

The Wall Street Journal reports that Biogen's Alzheimer's disease treatment had revenues for July through September that totaled $300,000.

Genome Research Papers on Cancer Chromatin, Splicing in the Thymus, Circular RNAs in Cancer

In Genome Research this week: analysis of bivalent chromatin sites, RBFOX splicing factors' role in thymic epithelial cells, and more.