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Sequenom, Harvard University, Accelrys, Agilent, Nanogen, Ventana, Celera, Atria Genetics, Nanosphere

Sequenom Licenses Next-Gen Sequencing Technology from Harvard,
Launches Assay Design Service
Sequenom said this week that it has exclusively licensed technology from Harvard University that it will use to develop a nanopore-based sequencing platform that will be faster and cheaper than currently available technologies.
The technology, which is able to detect a single strand of DNA as it passes through a nanopore, was developed by Amit Meller, an associate professor at Boston University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. Meller invented the technology while at Harvard’s Rowland Institute.
Sequenom said it expects the technology to enable DNA sequencing, as well as whole-genome genotyping and RNA and epigenetic analysis.
Harry Stylli, CEO of Sequenom, said that the proposed system will be “complementary” to the company’s MassArray genotyping platform. "Near term we expect this nanopore technology to deliver large-scale genotyping solutions and long term we believe it has the potential to provide a commercially viable, rapid, sub-thousand dollar human genome sequencing solution," he said.
Financial terms of the license agreement include up-front fees, milestone payments, and royalties from product sales. Further details were not provided.
In a separate announcement this week, Sequenom said that it has launched a new assay design and validation service. The Assays-By-Sequenom service enables customers to choose any SNP of interest combined with off-the-shelf pre-validated assay reagents. The assays are run on the firm’s MassArray platform.

Accelrys, Agilent Ink Software Resale Agreement
Accelrys and Agilent Technologies said this week that they have struck an agreement to resell each other's software to pharmaceutical companies through an integration and licensing partnership.
Under the agreement, Accelrys will resell Agilent's OpenLAB enterprise content manager, Kalabie electronic lab notebook, and GeneSpring gene expression software. Agilent will resell Accelrys' Accord cheminformatics solutions and Pipeline Pilot scientific operating platform.
"Agilent's strength in laboratory Informatics, QA/QC, and manufacturing are a natural complement to Accelrys' expertise in research, early development, and scientific data management," said Accelrys CEO Mark Emkjer.
Agilent's vice president and general manager, Bruce von Herrmann, said the integrated license and joint resale deal will benefit pharmaceutical clients "that want to spend less time integrating existing informatics solutions and more time developing new, more effective medicines."
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Nanogen Cuts 13 from Microarray Workforce
On the heels of last week’s news that Nanogen is looking to sell, shut down, or find a partner for its microarray business, the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to trim its microarray team by 13 staffers, or around four percent of its total workforce.
Those staffers will be handed pink slips immediately, and Nanogen said more employee cuts may be on the way, depending on what the firm decides will be its “final plan of exit,” the company said in the filing.
This round of cuts will cost Nanogen around $335,000 in severance and related expenses.
Nanogen said that it wants to divest its microarray segment, which includes the NanoChip product line, in order to cut costs and focus on pursuing its clinical diagnostics strategy (see BioCommerce Week 9/19/2007).

Ventana Rebuffs Roche’s Acquisition Offer Again
Roche said last week that it has extended until Nov. 1 its offer to buy Ventana Medical Systems, which was set to expire at the close of business on Sept. 20. Ventana immediately volleyed back that it would again reject the proposal, saying Roche's offer is "grossly inadequate."
This deadline is the third that Roche has set for its unsolicited offer to buy Ventana for $75 a share, or around $3 billion, which it first announced in late June. Roche reiterated last week that the offer is a 44 percent premium over Ventana's closing price before the deal was originally announced, and a 55 percent premium over Ventana's three-month average of $48.30 before the initial offer.
Ventana's shares closed Tuesday at $84.06 on the Nasdaq.
But Roche’s bid is too low, Ventana said again in response, arguing that the company is worth "significantly more than Roche is offering."
"We are continuing to build momentum in our core businesses and are increasingly well positioned to capitalize on the significant potential of the emerging field of companion diagnostics and personalized medicine," the company said, adding that its board of directors also has recommended that "stockholders not tender any of their shares to Roche.”
Roche pointed out that it now has tendered around 63,500 shares, but Ventana responded by saying that amounts to less than one percent of the company's roughly 34 million outstanding shares.
Roche also challenged a law in Arizona that would prevent it from exercising control over Ventana if it could get a majority stake in the company. Last week, the US District Court for the District of Arizona sided with Roche in ruling that Ventana may not take “any action to invoke, apply, or enforce the provisions” of the Arizona Control Share Act and the Arizona Business Combination Act (see BioCommerce Week 9/19/2007).
Roche also had filed suit in Delaware that would take away Ventana's ability to employ a "poison pill" defense, which would dilute Roche's holdings if it attempts to buy more than 20 percent of the company. That challenge is ongoing.

Celera to Acquire Atria Genetics for $33M
Celera said last week that it plans to acquire Atria Genetics in a $33 million cash deal that is expected to add transplant-related testing to the company’s molecular diagnostics portfolio.
Celera expects the acquisition to close during its second fiscal quarter, which ends Dec. 31. The company expects the deal to be accretive to earnings by the second half of its 2008 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2008.
Atria, based in South San Francisco, Calif., makes a line of human leukocyte antigen testing products designed to identify potential donors for bone marrow transplantations, Celera said.
The companies have an existing relationship: In 2004, Abbott Molecular began distributing Atria’s HLA sequencing products through its alliance with Celera.
Celera said today that the HLA market is around $175 million, of which around $20 million comes from bone marrow transplantation and the bone marrow registry.
Celera’s president, Kathy Ordoñez, said the Atria acquisition “gives us direct access to this important niche market area of tissue typing in transplantation and the bone marrow registry markets.”
Celera said it will integrate Atria’s 13 employees into its ranks.

FDA Clears Nanosphere’s Warfarin Sensitivity Assay
The US Food and Drug Administration last week cleared the first test to detect gene variants in patients that are sensitive to the anticoagulant warfarin. The test is made by Northbrook, Ill.-based Nanosphere.
"Today’s action offers physicians the first FDA cleared genetic test for warfarin sensitivity, which is another step in our commitment to personalized medicine,” Daniel Schultz, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. “With this test, physicians may be able to use genetic information along with other clinical information to treat their patients.”
Warfarin, marketed as Coumadin by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is used to prevent potentially fatal clots in blood vessels. However, too much or too little of the drug in patients can cause serious, life-threatening bleeding or blood clots. Variability to warfarin response has been linked to mutations in two genes: CYP2C9 and VKORC1.
Nanosphere’s Verigene Warfarin Metabolism Nucleic Acid Test, which runs on the company’s Verigene platform, “detects some variants of both genes,” the FDA said in a statement.
The agency cleared the test based on results of a study conducted by Nanosphere of “hundreds of DNA samples as well as on a broad range of published literature.” In a three-site study, the test was “accurate in all cases where the test yielded a result,” the FDA said. However, approximately 8 percent of the tests could not identify which genetic variants were present.
In August, FDA updated labeling for warfarin with information explaining that people with variations of the genes CYP2C9 and VKORC1 may respond differently to the drug.
The agency, however, stopped short of requiring physicians in the label to genetically test their patients, noting that additional outcomes studies needed to be done.
“The Nanosphere test is not intended to be a stand-alone tool to determine optimum drug dosage, but should be used along with clinical evaluation and other tools, including [International Normalized Ratio], to determine the best treatment for patients,” the FDA said.
While Nanosphere is the first company to receive FDA approval for a warfarin test, it is not the only company with a product in this area. Kimball Genetics last year launched a warfarin sensitivity DNA test for research purposes, while Nanogen, Genelex, AutoGenomics, and Clinical Data each market home-brew warfarin tests of their own. Other companies, such as Luminex, Osmetech, and ParagonDx, have announced plans to develop their own tests in this area.
Nanosphere recently filed for an initial public offering, through which it hopes to raise at least $90 million.

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