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Trevor Hawkins, Kevin Conroy, Maneesh Arora, James Herrman, Gregory Hamilton, John Bellano, Jake Orville, Molecular Devices, S&P, Pacific Growth Equities, Jivan, NimbleGen, 454 Life Sciences, FDA, Affy, Iconix


Trevor Hawkins stepped down this week as president and CEO of MDS to take a position in Europe with Phillips. Hawkins has also resigned from the board of Tm Bioscience.

Prior to MDS, Hawkins served as president of the molecular diagnostics business unit at GE Healthcare. Previously, he was senior vice president of development and new business initiatives at Amersham Biosciences and director of the Human Genome Project at the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute.

Third Wave Technologies announced managerial changes yesterday associated with CEO Kevin Conroy's recent succession.

Maneesh Arora will transition to the position of chief financial officer by mid-March, the company said. James Herrman will retain the title through the company's annual report filing. Gregory Hamilton has been named vice president of finance, while John Bellano has been appointed vice president of sales, succeeding Jake Orville. Orville will transition to an as-yet undisclosed position in the company.

Arora joined Third Wave in January 2003 and served, most recently as vice president of marketing and strategy. His previous positions include director of corporate strategy and new ventures and Ondeo Nalco and a range of finance, marketing and sales roles at Kraft Foods. Hamilton joined the company from Leo Burnett. Prior to that he was an auditor and consultant at Arthur Andersen and Accenture. Bellano joined Third Wave in February as regional vice president of sales from Roche Diagnostics, where he was a regional business manager since 2000.


BioCommerce Briefs

Molecular Devices' Q4 Revenues Rise 10 Percent

Molecular Devices this week reported a 10-percent increase in revenues, driven by sales of its SpectraMax, Genepix, FLIPR, high-throughput electrophysiology, and high-content imaging product lines.

Revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 10 percent to $52.5 million. The company said that, eliminating the effects of foreign currency translation, actual revenues for the quarter grew 14 percent over the prior year.

R&D spending for the quarter dipped slightly to $6.3 million from $6.9 million in the year-ago period.

Molecular Devices' fourth-quarter profit fell 60 percent to $5.7 million from $14.7 million year over year. But last year's results include an $18-million gain on the sale of equity securities.

For full-year 2005, the firm posted revenue of $181.2 million, a 22-percent gain over revenue of $148.5 million in 2004. Its profit for the year declined 7.6 percent to $15.9 million, or $.95 per share, from $17.2 million, or $1.08 per share, the year before. These results also reflect last year's gain on the sale of equity securities.

The firm predicted first-quarter 2006 sales of $40 million to $42 million, and earnings per diluted share of $.15 to $.17. For full-year 2005, Molecular Devices expects revenue of $190 million to $200 million and EPS of $1.10 to $1.20.

Molecular Devices had around $28.9 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Dec. 31.

S&P Reiterates 'Buy' Rating on Qiagen

Standard & Poor's analyst Sho Matsubara has reiterated a 'buy' rating on Qiagen's shares in advance of the release of its fourth-quarter financial results next week.

Matsubara said that the company currently trades at a discount to peers, "which we think is unwarranted." The analyst, who said Qiagen would benefit from the emerging molecular diagnostics market, also reiterated a $14 price target on the stock.

Qiagen's shares closed at $12.20 on Tuesday. Its 52-week trading range is $10.76-$13.95.

Pacific Growth Equities Initiates Coverage of Solexa with 'Buy' Rating

Pacific Growth Equities analyst Nate Cornell has initiated coverage of next-generation sequencing technology firm Solexa with a 'buy' rating.

Cornell said Solexa's shares, which closed at $9.23 in Tuesday trade on the Nasdaq, currently trade at a 34 percent discount to peers based on future revenue estimates.

He said he expects Solexa, which plans to introduce its Genome Analysis System during the second quarter of 2006, to take market share away from sequencing market leader Applied Biosystems, as well as 454 Life Sciences, a unit of Curagen that also has developed a next-generation sequencer.

In issuing the rating, Cornell also cited the firm's strong management team, which includes former executives from ABI, Amersham Biosciences (now GE Healthcare), PerkinElmer, Cellomics, and Clontech, and their experience in launching and developing gene sequencers.

Jivan to Offer Splice Array on NimbleGen Platform

Jivan Biologics and NimbleGen Systems are partnering to make Jivan's splice variant assay designs available on NimbleGen's high-density microarray platform, NimbleGen said last week.

Customers must order splice variant arrays through Berkeley, Calif.-based Jivan, said NimbleGen in a release.

Financial details were not provided.

NimbleGen recently raised $8.2 million to finance growth and expansion. The firm competes with BCW Index firms Agilent, Applied Biosystems, and GE Healthcare in the microarray market.

454 Posts $7.3M in Q4 Revenue; Plans Launch of New Sequencing Application

454 Life Sciences, a majority-owned subsidiary of Curagen, generated $7.3 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2005, nearly 70 percent of its parent company's total consolidated revenues for the quarter, the company said last week.

The company also said it plans to release an ultra deep sequencing application later this year.

454's fourth quarter revenues came from sales of instrument systems and proprietary reagents, fees for service sales and royalties, as well as $900,000 in grant revenue, CuraGen said in a release. 454 generated $597,000 in revenue during the fourth quarter of 2004.

Licensing of 454's Genome Sequencer 20 system, which is distributed by Roche Applied Sciences, more than doubled in the fourth quarter as compared to the first nine months of 2005, resulting in a year-end total of 20 sequencers being used worldwide, said the company.

CuraGen forecast that 454 will generate between $30 million and $35 million in revenues in 2006.

The company expects development expenses in 2006 ranging from $65 million to $70 million and administrative expenses of about $23 million, "related primarily to the support of 454 Life Sciences' continued growth."

Among those developments, the company announced plans to release an ultra deep sequencing application in mid-2006. The technology "takes advantage of Genome Sequencer 20's capability to analyze greater than 200,000 unique DNA molecules in a single instrument ... to analyze genetic variation within viral samples, including HIV ... or tumors," the company said.

At the same time 454 will release enhanced features for whole-genome sequencing applications, including support for paired reads and software for the mapping and de novo assembly of genomes as large as 1 billion bases.

The company expects to incur $7 million to $15 million in expenses during 2006 to support continued investment in next-generation sequencing technologies. 454 currently has sufficient cash and investments to support that spending, a company spokesperson told BioCommerce Week sister publication GenomeWeb News.

FDA Approves CDC's RT-PCR Test for Avian Flu

The US Food and Drug Administration said last week that it has approved a CDC-developed diagnostic for H5 strains of avian influenza in human patients.

The Influenza A/H5 Virus real-time RT-PCR primer and probe set provides preliminary results on suspected samples within four hours of testing, said the FDA in a statement.

"Using flexible regulatory authorities, FDA was able to prioritize this expedited approval based on the clear critical need," said acting FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach.

Affy Partners with Iconix on Drug Toxicology Research Tools

Affymetrix and Iconix Pharmaceuticals plan to co-develop products to help study the toxicological and pharmacological properties of drugs and drug candidates, the firms said this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, Affymetrix will combine its GeneChip platform with Iconix's DrugMatrix 640 compound reference database and analysis software. Researchers will also be able to compare gene-expression profiles to Iconix's Drug Signatures library to help predict the impact that gene-expression changes may have on the body's toxic response, the companies said.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Serologicals, Cellumen to Develop Cytotoxicity Panels

Serologicals has signed an agreement with Cellumen to commercialize a cytotoxicity profiling panel and services, Serologicals said this week.

The system will be designed with cellular assay reagents from Serologicals' Chemicon and Upstate units and with Cellumen's system cell biology approach, the company said in a statement.

Chemicon will focus on the development and production of assays and panels, while Cellumen will focus on their use on profiling services.

The companies will market the products jointly.

No additional details were provided.

The Scan

Cell Signaling Pathway Identified as Metastasis Suppressor

A new study in Nature homes in on the STING pathway as a suppressor of metastasis in a mouse model of lung cancer.

Using Bees to Gain Insights into Urban Microbiomes

As bees buzz around, they pick up debris that provides insight into the metagenome of their surroundings, researchers report in Environmental Microbiome.

Age, Genetic Risk Tied to Blood Lipid Changes in New Study

A study appearing in JAMA Network Open suggests strategies to address high lipid levels should focus on individuals with high genetic risk and at specific ages.

Study Examines Insights Gained by Adjunct Trio RNA Sequencing in Complex Pediatric Disease Cases

Researchers in AJHG explore the diagnostic utility of adding parent-child RNA-seq to genome sequencing in dozens of families with complex, undiagnosed genetic disease.