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Sequenom to Acquire Axiom Biotechnologies; Plans Spree of New Releases

NEW YORK, Aug. 21 - Sequenom has 18 busy months ahead of it.

The company today announced plans to acquire privately held Axiom Biotechnologies, which Sequenom said will help its nascent pharma division build some internal biology, assay, and drug-discovery muscle. Sequenom also said it will release a gaggle of new products and updated technology beginning in the third quarter and continuing into 2004.


Axiom, based in Sequenom's home port of San Diego, has expertise in the study of human cell lines and cell-based assay technologies. The acquisition, scheduled to close before the end of September, is intended to accelerate by as much as two years Sequenom's own tender foothold in the drug-discovery arena.


"The acquisition of Axiom is a strategic fit for the long-term development of our pharmaceutical unit," said Toni Schuh, president and CEO of Sequenom. It "rapidly enables us to move our discoveries forward by adding internal assay and screening abilities, key technologies, a library of well characterized human cell lines, expertise and intellectual property."


Sequenom said the pharma unit also intends to perform nine more genome scans by the middle of next year. The company said these projects will focus on cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.


On the new-technology front, Sequenom said its genetic-systems division will start rolling out more than a half dozen new gadgets every six months or so.


Among the new products Sequenom customers can expect include:


·        A new MassARRAY system. This tool, due out before the end of September, is designed to annotate up to 20,000 analytical reactions per day.


·        An allelotyping unit. This product, which also will be rolled out before the end of September, pools scores of DNA samples into a single assay that is meant to help researchers determine allelic frequencies of a SNP population.


·        A compact nanoliter liquid-transfer system. This product, due out in the fourth quarter, is an upgradeable MassARRAY nanodispenser that Sequenom said can double the throughput levels of existing liquid-transfer systems.


·        A re-sequencing product line. One tool, due in the fourth quarter, will perform targeted SNP discovery while another tool, set to launch sometime next year, will perform microbial identification. Sequenom said the technology will enable researchers to scan up to three megabases per mass spectrometer per day.


·        A rapid thermocycler system. Scheduled to launch in the first quarter next year, this system is said to be able to run four times faster than currently available products.


·        A desktop MassARRAY tool. This medium-throughput system is set to be released sometime next year.


·        A microscale MassARRAY system . This technology, scheduled to appear by the end of 2004, will combine onto a single Active SpectroCHIP the entire sample process, including DNA amplification, primer extension, and mixture with MALDI matrix.


Schuh said in a statement that these new products should help the company "run cash flow positive" by the fourth quarter next year.