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UPDATE: Applera Pledges $75M to Commercialize Genomics Discoveries

NEW YORK, July 24 – Applera will spend $75 million over the next year to realize a return on its "substantial investment in sequencing the human genome,” by establishing a wide-ranging drug discovery and diagnostics development program across its three businesses, Celera Genomics, Celera Diagnostics, and Applied Biosystems, Applera CEO Tony White said Tuesday.

“We’re moving into the next stage of our multi-year genomics strategy, a comprehensive program for commercializing products based on discoveries from the genome,” White said.

The initiative would seek to commercialize therapeutic and diagnostic products based on Celera’s genomic and SNP data, as well as on new data the three companies hope to generate over the next year linking genetic variation with disease. The three Applera companies would make equal funding contributions to the program, and would freely share the resulting data.

“Essentially what’s going to happen is that all three of businesses will share equally in the funding at their cost of this activity, and then the IP or information or data will flow to the respective businesses free,” White said. “So it’ll go to the pieces [of the business] where they’re needed to create the products that are discrete to each of the businesses.”

The $75 million would go towards several projects across Applera. Celera Genomics will sequence the genomes of 40 to 50 patients to identify disease-related SNPs and haplotypes, or neighborhoods of SNPs, ABI will develop reagent sets using Celera’s data for sale to researchers, and Celera Diagnostics will build an industrial-scale genotyping facility to perform disease-association studies and search for genetic markers associated with specific diseases.

White said that the company expects to first see revenue from ABI’s sale of reagents and assay tests based on the company's Sequence Detection Systems platform and new microarray platforms under development with Illumina and 3M. Celera Genomics would also convert its new sequencing data into a database, folded into its subscription-based Celera Discovery System. In addition, Applera hopes that Celera Diagnostics, the newest of the three companies, will break into the $20 billion diagnostics market with products based on Applera’s intellectual property.

The company did not say it would direct any of the $75 million towards Celera Genomics' ongoing proteomics activities, but Craig Venter, president of Celera Genomics, said that if his company found any proteins associated with disease, Celera Diagnostics, under the direction of Kathy Ordoñez, would take them over and license them out to other companies as diagnostics.

“Each one of these three businesses has a different mission and they’re not going to compete with one another,” said White. “Discoveries related to therapeutic development would be under Celera Genomics’ charter; if it’s a diagnostic product under Celera Diagnostics; and obviously tools and systems would fall to ABI.”

White added that the $75 million for the initiative would be paid out over 12 to 15 months, and that no sales of the company’s assets were required to provide the funding. However, he added that he saw the current project as just the start of Applera’s efforts to generate profits from the the company’s data.

“My experience is that one project leads to another here,” he said. “I’m sure that Craig [Venter]'s and Kathy [Ordoñez]’s and Mike [Hunkapiller]’s’ brains are already smoking about what to do with the information and what the follow on is. I think this is going to be an imbedded activity in the company for a long time.”  
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