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Pressuring ABI, Roche Inks Deal with 454

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Only a few of weeks after Beckman snatched up next-generation DNA sequencing technology firm Agencourt Bioscience, Roche Diagnostics threw its hat into the ring by signing an exclusive agreement with 454 Life Sciences to sell its nanotechnology-based sequencing instrument.

Terms of the pact call for Roche Diagnostics to obtain rights to exclusively distribute 454’s sequencing technology, including kits and reagents, and has rights to sell to all markets except regulated diagnostics. The deal is potentially worth $62 million to 454, which is a unit of New Haven, Conn.-based biopharmaceutical company CuraGen.

454 is widely considered to have the most advanced of the newer alternative sequencing technologies, which hold the promise of eventually delivering the $100,000 genome — and, potentially, the $1,000 genome. While other startups working on similar technologies have yet to showcase a prototype, 454 has already placed instruments at the Broad Institute and elsewhere.

The arrival of the first of these DNA sequencers surely has the manufacturers of the traditional capillary electrophoresis instruments looking for a way to maintain their seat at the table over the long-term. When will Applied Biosystems and GE Healthcare, the DNA sequencing instrument market leaders, make a move to either acquire one of these newer technologies or partner with their inventors?

To be sure, ABI, which holds the lion’s share of the sequencing instrument market, is not going to lose its dominant position anytime soon. “Let’s just lay it out there: ABI owns the sequencing market,” says Adam Chazan, an analyst for Pacific Growth Equities who covers ABI.

ABI recently stated that it had identified 35 companies that have “alternative” sequencing technologies, but it is not saying whether it is interested in acquiring any of them — or whether it’s developing its own alternative technology in-house.

— Ed Winnick

 

Patent Watch

 

US Patent 6,898,531. Algorithms for selection of primer pairs. Inventors: John Sheehan, Daryl Thomas, Wade Barrett. Assignee: Perlegen Sciences. Issued: May 24, 2005.

This patent covers methods to amplify a target DNA sequence, according to the abstract. This includes methods for amplification of target sequence, designing primer pairs for the amplification reaction, and reagents and parameters for the reaction as well.

 

US Patent 6,892,141. Primer design system. Inventors: Hiroki Nakae, Sigeo Ihara. Assignee: Hitachi. Issued: May 10, 2005.

This invention entails “a primer design system in which DNA nucleotide sequences are obtained from a database comprising a plurality of different DNA nucleotide sequences, and the nucleotide sequences of primers capable of hybridizing specifically to the DNA thus obtained are determined,” according to the patent abstract.

 

NHGRI announced the latest additions to the genome priority sequencing list. Participating institutes — Agencourt, Baylor, Broad Institute, Venter Science Institute, and Washington University — have 13 more organisms on their hands now, including the ground squirrel, tree shrew, bush baby, and zebra finch.

 

Researchers from Sanger, the Moredum Research Institute, and the Scottish Crop Research Institute sequenced Chlamydophilia abortus, a bacterium known to cause infectious abortions in pigs and sheep. The organism’s genome is about 1.1 megabases and has close to 1,000 predicted genes.

 

The Joint Genome Institute announced plans to pursue 40 new genome sequencing projects in 2006. Chosen from a field of 135 proposals, the genomes come from organisms including catfish, the porcelain crab, tropical grain Sorghum bicolor, and a community of archaea from a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

 

The National Institute of Mental Health announced a new research program, “Deep Sequencing and Haplotype Profiling of Mental Disorders,” that encourages scientists to use new sequencing technologies, among other novel tools. That program announcement is PA-05-106.

 

Solexa laid off 17 percent of its staff, or about 25 people, following its merger with Lynx Therapeutics. That brings the combined companies’ headcount to 116.

 

Datapoint

46

The Joint Genome Institute has added 46 genomes to its Integrated Microbial Genomes data management system, bringing to 337 the total number of publicly available genomes. IMG version 1.1 now includes 301 bacterial, 25 archaeal, and 11 eukaryotic genomes.

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