This article has been updated to include the name of one company said to have purchased DoubleTwist's bioinformatics software.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 15 - The DoubleTwist logo still hangs over the defunct company's former headquarters at 2001 Broadway in Oakland, Calif. But yesterday a new sign greeted visitors: a sandwich board advertising an auction.
The auction brought hundreds of people to the building's penthouse where a standing-room-only crowd bid and bought every bit and byte of the roughly 2,000 items once owned by DoubleTwist, according to Greg Quiroga, director of sales for AuctioNet, which oversaw the auction.
The items ran the gamut: Dell laptops, office chairs, Sun Enterprise servers, a ping pong table, Paracel GeneMatcher systems, and DJ lighting equipment. Many who came to bid were attracted by ads in local newspapers promising laptops and office supplies.
Though most had likely never heard of DoubleTwist, much less associated the name with biotech or bioinformatics, some bidders were industry insiders: Roughly 15 former DoubleTwist staffers were scavenging for laptops, said one, and several people who identified themselves with Celera and Applied Biosystems registered to bid, according to a source involved in the auction.
Redwood, Calif.-based AuctioNet would not say who the winning bidders were, making it difficult to know if folks from ABI or Celera were bargain hunting for a Lucent Portmaster Communication Server, a Paracel GeneMatcher, an industrial coffee machine, or a leopard-print executive desk chair.
Perhaps the odds, though, were with the GeneMatchers as Paracel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Celera, "strictly prohibits the transfer of any software licenses," according to AuctioNet.
At the end of the day, everything went, leaving empty floors. A source with the building's owner said a nonprofit organization was considering leasing space in the five-story, 65,000-square-foot building, which DoubleTwist leased since 1999.
AuctioNet would not disclose how much cash the auction raised. But the real money maker, DoubleTwist's software, may be only "days or weeks" away, according to Martin Pichinson, co-president of Los Angeles-based Sherwood Partners liquidation company.
Two companies are interested in the software, he said. Though he wouldn't disclose their names, Pichinson said one is a large pharma negotiating a non-exclusive license to part of DoubleTwist's bioinformatics software, and the other is a health-care equipment company that would purchase the remaining bulk of the software.
A high-level source close to the negotiations told GenomeWeb that Merck has acquired through the auction a non-exclusive license to the company's software. In November 2000, DoubleTwist licensed its annotated human-genome database package to Merck. Neither Merck nor its director of international bioinformatics, Richard Blevins, returned telephone calls seeking comment.