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M&A: Buyout Bonanza: Moto Unit, Gnsl, Vgin, Gone to Bidders

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Acquisition season is here in full force. The recent flurry may not abate, as more companies watch their stock slip below their cash value.

Genomic Solutions, whose shares looked more like penny stocks than biotech stocks in the last few months despite a 25 percent increase in genomics-related instrument sales, sold to Harvard Bioscience for roughly $26 million, mostly in stock. The Ann Arbor, Mich., supplier of microarray and proteomics technology is a welcome addition to Massachusetts’ Harvard Bioscience, which sells reagents, lab supplies, and tools used in drug discovery research. Genomic Solutions will trim 30 percent of its staff to prepare for the merger, and CEO Jeff Williams will remain head of the business unit. Harvard CEO Chane Graziano says, though, “I would describe the company as fat.” He expects to cut Genomic Solutions’ R&D expenditures — currently at 21 percent — down to 10 to 12 percent, more in line with what typical companies spend, he says.

Meantime, Bayer Diagnostics acquired Toronto’s ever-hopeful diagnostic firm Visible Genetics in a $61.4 million cash deal. VisGen CEO Richard Daly is expected to stay on for six months to help Bayer integrate the two firms. Visible Genetics sells the only FDA-approved HIV sequencing test that’s commercially available in the US. Though the test was doing well in its first few weeks out, Daly told GT earlier this year that the FDA’s non-regulation of homebrew tests could interfere with the marketshare VisGen needed to make a go of it. “The outcome is really going to depend on where the FDA wants to take it,” Daly said at the time. The product, which Bayer plans to continue marketing alongside its own HIV nucleic acid tests, is also sold in Europe and Canada.

This summer also saw Amersham pick up Motorola Life Science’s CodeLink pre-arrayed slides business for $20 million, adding it to Amersham Biosciences’ array of gene-expression offerings. Some Motorola employees are expected to transfer to Amersham along with the technology.

— Marian Moser Jones and Meredith Salisbury

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