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23andMe, Ancestry.com, Fluidigm, PerkinElmer, University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center, Genedata, BASF Plant Science, ARUP Laboratories, SciGene, CIDR, NIH, Illumina, Affymetrix, GeneGo

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23andMe Lowers Cost 60 Percent; Offers Lineage Service with Ancestry.com
 
Direct-to-consumer genomics services firm 23andMe has dramatically slashed the price for its service and expanded its offerings to include a lineage tracing service through a partnership with Ancestry.com.
 
The nearly 1-year-old startup said in a statement this week that by cutting the price for its genotyping service from $999 to $399 it is “democratizing personal genetics and expanding the opportunity for more people to benefit from the genetic revolution.”
 
The company said advances made to Illumina’s genotyping technology, specifically the introduction of the HumanHap550-Quad Plus BeadChip, made the price cut possible. Illumina is the provider of genotyping tools for 23andMe’s services.
 
23andMe also said that beyond the new ancestry service it has added improved custom content to the BeadChip to include more SNP variations and rare mutations.
 
“By taking advantage of continuing innovation we are able to introduce a new chip that will give people more relevant data at a lower price,” 23andMe Co-founder Anne Wojcicki said in a statement.
 
In addition to technological advances, there has been speculation from industry observers that the crop of new DTC genomics service providers, such as 23andMe, Navigenics, and DeCode Genetics, may be facing price pressure from an ongoing research initiative undertaken by the Coriell Institute for Medical Research earlier this year.
 
Coriell is trying to recruit 100,000 volunteers — 10,000 by the end of 2009 — to provide DNA through a saliva sample for a similar, but free, service as those being offered by the commercial firms. The Camden, NJ-based institute plans to use the information in a research study exploring the utility of using genomic information in clinical decision making.
 
The company said the ancestry analysis service it will provide through the Ancestry.com partnership “allows users to trace their genetic lineage and discover the role that their ancestral origins have played in human history.”
 
Ancestry.com’s DNA database contains over 7 billion names in 26,000 databases, and it includes more than 7 million user-submitted family trees, which enables customers to “trace their roots and connect with distant cousins,” 23andMe said.
 

 
Fluidigm Expects IPO Range of $14 to $16 Per Share
 
Fluidigm expects to offer 5.3 million shares of common stock at a price of between $14 and $16 in its initial public offering, according to an amended registration statement filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week.
 
The South San Francisco, Calif.-based firm said it expects to raise net proceeds of roughly $70.8 million, assuming an offering price of $15 per share. If the underwriters’ over-allotment option is exercised in full, Fluidigm could receive net proceeds of $81.9 million.
 
Fluidigm said that plans to use around $26 million of the funds for sales and marketing initiatives, including expanding its sales force; $16 million for research and development activities; $2 million to expand its facilities and manufacturing operations; and the balance for working capital and general corporate purposes.
 
The company makes integrated fluidic circuit systems for performing life science experiments in parallel on a single chip. One of its fluidic systems, the BioMark, is used for gene expression analysis, genotyping, and digital PCR, while another, the Topaz system, is used for protein crystallization research.
 
Fludigim disclosed in its most recent filing that its first-half 2008 revenues rose 83 percent to $5.5 million from $3 million in the first half of 2007. Its net loss for the first six months of the year increased 18 percent to $15.3 million, or $5.39 per share, from $13 million, or $4.74 per share, in the comparable period of 2007.
 
Fluidigm’s R&D expenses increased slightly to $7.2 million from $7.1 million, while its SG&A spending jumped 58 percent to $9.8 million from $6.2 million.
 
The firm initially filed for the IPO in April. Morgan Stanley is the book-running manager for the offering, with UBS, Leerink Swann, and Pacific Growth Equities acting as co-managers (see BAN 5/6/2008).
 
As of June 28, Fluidigm held $32.5 million in cash, cash equivalents, and available-for-sale securities.
 

 
PerkinElmer, MD Anderson Collaborate on Comparative Genomic Hybridization
 
PerkinElmer said last week that it will collaborate with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on array comparative genomic hybridization.
 
As part of the alliance, PerkinElmer will train the center’s molecular genetic technology students in the aCGH technique, the Waltham, Mass.-based firm said. It also will support two student research projects for presentation at genomics and cytogenetics conferences aimed at increasing awareness of aCGH.
 
According to PerkinElmer, aCGH enables scientists to learn more cytogenetically about samples in less time than with traditional karyotyping.
 
Further terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.
 

 
BASF Plant Science Licenses Genedata's Expressionist Software
 
Genedata said last week that BASF Plant Science has licensed its Expressionist bioinformatics software for use in its genetic screening programs.
 
Jürgen Logemann, vice president of technology management at BASF Plant Science, said in a statement that the company selected Expressionist after “a thorough market evaluation” for its ability to process and analyze "large amounts" of expression profiling data in a high-throughput manner.
 
Genedata said that Expressionist is used for quality assessment and pre-processing of a range of ‘omics data types, including microarray and PCR data, and allows researchers to integrate molecular profiling data from transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics applications.
 
Genedata CEO Othmar Pfannes said in a statement that ag-biotech is a “very exciting growth area” for the company and that four of the “top six” agricultural companies are currently using Expressionist.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not provided.
 

 
ARUP, SciGene to Develop Automated DNA Test Platform
 
Clinical lab firm ARUP Laboratories and SciGene said last week that they will collaborate on the development of an automated platform for processing DNA samples used in microarray-based tests for genetic defects.
 
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SciGene will contribute its ArrayPrep Target Preparation System, which is a robotic liquid handling and incubation platform, as part of the alliance. ARUP will provide scientific expertise for testing and optimizing procedures performed on the ArrayPrep.
 
The firms aim to develop a fully automated platform that would process patient samples in less than a day.
 
Financial and other terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
 

 
CIDR Offering Genotyping Services to Inherited Disease Researchers
 
The Center for Inherited Disease Research will provide high-throughput genotyping and related services to researchers studying multi-factorial hereditary diseases and other projects, the National Institutes of Health stated in a funding opportunity announcement.
 
CIDR, based in Bethesda, Md., offers genotyping services on the Illumina and Affymetrix microarray platforms.
 
NIH said that there are no funds associated with the resource access awards, but the genotyping is supported through NIH funding of CIDR. Applicants must get prior approval from an NIH supporting institute or explain how the genotyping will be supported.
 
The initiative is being managed by the National Human Genome Research Institute.
 
CIDR’s high-throughput genotyping and statistical genetics services are aimed at helping researchers identify genes that may contribute to human health and disease. The center is focused on supplying genotyping to small labs that do not have the genotyping requirements to conduct their research, and it supports whole genome association studies, genome-wide linkage analyses, and follow-up replication and fine mapping studies.
 
More information is available on NIH’s website.
 

 
MD Anderson Licenses GeneGo's MetaCore Suite
 
The MD Anderson Cancer Center has licensed GeneGo’s MetaCore data analysis suite for use throughout the institution, the systems biology software company said last week.
 
The St. Joseph, Mich.-based company said MD Anderson will use the suite, which includes training and support, as a central data repository, as a management and collaboration platform for clinical ‘omics data, and for integrative pathway analysis.
 
MD Anderson pathologist Mary Edgerton said she will use the software to infer networks for pathways in lung, brain, and breast cancer from gene expression array data. She said she also uses the curated pathways to develop mathematical models of molecular networks that predict tumor behavior using multi-scale modeling.”
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

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