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Sequencing: As knight in shining armor, Solexa pairs with Lynx

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Recent years have been tough on Lynx Therapeutics, the Hayward, Calif.-based commercializer of gene sequencing and analysis technology originally developed in Sydney Brenner’s lab. Senior-level management changes, cascading losses, and subsequent layoffs have combined to force the publicly-held company into survival mode. But it appears Lynx may have found a guardian angel in Solexa, a privately-held startup specializing in gene sequencing technology based in Essex, UK. As of press time, Solexa and Lynx had tentatively decided to merge, and as part of the deal, Solexa agreed to provide Lynx with a loan of $2.5 million to sustain its operations.

The rationale behind the two companies coming together lies in their shared interest in technology acquired from Manteia, a now-defunct Swiss company that had developed a system for growing colonies of DNA on a glass substrate. When it became apparent early this year that both Lynx and Solexa were interested in acquiring the technology for their own respective technology platforms, the two parties agreed to jointly acquire the intellectual property and investigate how the two companies could work together, says Simon Bennett, Solexa’s director of business development. As Lynx CEO Kevin Corcoran put it: “It made sense not to get into a bidding war.”

Corcoran and Bennett are hesitant to say how a combined company might share the DNA cluster technology — at least until the two companies completed their due diligence in September — but separately they say Manteia’s IP should accelerate the commercial viability of both Lynx’s and Solexa’s platforms. Lynx is keen to replace its technically cumbersome bead cloning technique with the clustering technology, Corcoran says, and Bennett at Solexa says employing the clustering technology will allow the company to bring its next-generation sequencing technology to market using a less efficient detection system than would be necessary with single-molecule analysis. “It doesn’t mean we’re losing focus on a single-molecule sequencing technology,” Bennett says. “But it’s a means of accelerating our commercial plan.”

Solexa may have some additional help with the hiring of John West as CEO. West, who previously served as vice president for DNA platforms at Applied Biosystems, takes over from Nick McCooke, who led the company since January 2001.

— John S. MacNeil

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