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UPDATE: BASF-LYNX Gets Name Change, 10M Euro Cash Infusion in Restructuring Effort

This story has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Nov. 12 – BASF-LYNX, the joint venture between German chemicals giant BASF and Lynx Therapeutics, an American maker of DNA profiling technologies, said Monday it had been renamed Axaron Bioscience as part of a restructuring program designed to give the company more independence in the marketplace.

"The name change is a symbol of the changes in the company's structure," said Susanne Kuhlendahl, manager of corporate communications at Axaron. "In the past the company was operated kind of like an incubator. Now the strategy is for the company to become fully independent."

Axaron of Heidelberg, Germany conducts genomics-based research programs for its customers.

As part of the decision to bolster Axaron's independence, BASF and Lynx have also each committed an additional 5 million euros ($4.5 million) to the company's cash reserves.

And, Axaron has also created and filled two new senior management positions. Axaron has named Christopher Missling executive vice president and chief financial officer, while Sylvia Schreiner has been appointed vice president and chief operating officer.

Kuhlendahl said that over the next year Axaron would also seek to make further changes in its structure. Those changes might take the form of an initial public offering or of a merger with another company, but Kuhlendahl declined to offer any specifics. She noted that part of the decision would depend on market conditions, which have lately been rocky.

"Axaron plans to undergo a major restructuring in the near future, but we have not made any decisions yet," Kuhlendahl said. "We have a couple of strategic options."

BASF currently holds 43.4 percent of Axaron and Lynx holds 41.7 percent of the company. The remaining shares are owned by Axaron's 86 employees.

Axaron, which has penned a "handful" of deals primarily with European companies since its establishment in 1997, supplies genomics services, including target finding and toxicology studies, to drug developers and other companies.

"We are a company with an extension technology platform that matches gene analysis with biological know-how," Kuhlendahl said. "We work on partneships with companies in the industry."

The company's offerings are based on technologies developed in house as well as those licensed from Lynx Therapeutics.

Lynx' technologies include the Megaclone system, which uses microbeads to sort millions of DNA molecules according to sequence. Each different molecule binds to a microbead, with each bead able to hold up to 100,000 identical molecules. Fluorescent tags on each bead indicate how much of a particular DNA molecule is on the bead.     

Megaclone’s applications include Megasort, which uses Megaclone to measure comparative gene expression levels in different samples; Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing technology, which can identify genes by a 16 to 20 base signature sequence and can detect the levels of gene expression in cells; and MegaType SNP detection technology.  

In July, the jointly held company agreed to extend its license for Lynx’ technologies through the end of 2007.

In addition, Axaron has developed in-house the restriction mediated differential display technology, which allows users to compare the activities of two genes as well as to issolate genes of interest. 

Kuhlendahl said that Axaron was currently only generating revenues by providing services, although she did not rule out the possibility that the company might also eventually develop products.

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