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Paracel s Future Uncertain as Celera Sheds Tool-Shop Skin

NEW YORK, March 21 - Paracel's future as a Celera Genomics subsidiary is unclear, people close to Celera say.


As Celera continues to shed its tool-shop skin and slips into new drug discovery duds, it has to decide what to do with the upstream technologies and businesses that helped make it a genomics powerhouse.


Earlier this month Celera sold its AgGen animal genomics and genotyping business to MetaMorphix, and in December sold the unit's plant side to Paradigm. Celera is also weighing its options for its online business, which is poised to break a profit this year.


Paracel's place at the Applera table is particularly uncertain. In August, Celera wrote off much of its investment in the genomic data and text analysis-systems company because it "had not generated the levels of business that we originally expected," a Celera spokesman said recently. 


As Craig Venter, Celera's president at the time, told investors back then, "recent reportings from other parts of the computing industry that there's tremendous downturn in computer sales ... certainly has affected specialized chips and computer equipment that Paracel makes." 

Robert Bennett, the spokesman, added that Celera has said it "would be considering alternatives" for Paracel but declined to comment on the status of Celera's "reviews" of Paracel or the online business. He would not say whether tangible options for the Celera business would include keeping it, selling it, or passing it to Applied Biosystems.


Paracel was founded in 1992 to commercialize data-filtering technology developed by TRW for government applications. Together with researchers from Caltech and Applied Biosystems, the firm programmed the FDF system for genomic data analysis.

Paracel became a wholly owned subsidiary of Applera after Celera acquired it in a stock-for-stock transaction in June 2000. The company is based in Pasadena, Calif., and has offices in San Jose, Calif., Columbia, Md., and the UK.


Paracel officials were not available for comment.

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