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Acacia, CombiMatrix, University of Colorado, Almac, Lumera, Harvard Medical School, Qiagen, Eppendorf, Duke, Affy, Imgenex, Epitome, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GenTel

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Acacia to Spin Out CombiMatrix as Independent Company;
University of Colorado First to Join CombiCore Program

Acacia Research said this week that its board of directors has approved a plan for its CombiMatrix microarray subsidiary to become an independent public company.

Acacia said it expects the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2006, subject to receiving a "satisfactory tax opinion from legal counsel" and other conditions.

If these conditions are met, Acacia will redeem all of the issued and outstanding shares of Acacia Research-CombiMatrix common stock, which trades under the ticker symbol CBMX, for all of the common stock of CombiMatrix, which will list its shares for trading on Nasdaq.

The spin-out "will benefit both companies by eliminating the risk factors associated with the current capital structure," Paul Ryan, chairman and CEO of Acacia, said in statement. The separation of the two companies is also expected to make the firms more attractive to investors, he said.

According to CombiMatrix vice president Bret Undem, CombiMatrix's CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics subsidiary will remain with the company following the transaction.

He also said CombiMatrix will benefit from the transaction by getting its own board of directors and that being linked to Acacia may have been "confusing for some, especially when Acacia is a media company." He also said it could benefit CombiMatrix investors.

"Wall Street prefers a normal, capital system or stock that is just for one company, that doesn't have a parent that has influence," Undem said

Separately, CombiMatrix said this week that the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center will buy CombiMatrix's microarray products under the CombiCore access program.

Under the non-exclusive agreement, researchers can purchase CustomArrays and CatalogArrays, including array-processing services performed at the university's Microarray Core Facility.

Undem told BioArray News this week that the new program enables the company to market, sell and deliver products to university customers. He also said that CombiMatrix is in discussions with other universities and may sign more CombiCore agreements in the near future.


Almac, formerly ArraDx, Earns ISO Accreditation

Almac Diagnostics, formerly ArraDx, has become the first authorized Affymetrix service provider to gain accreditation under the ISO 17025 standard, the company said this week.

Almac's accreditation applies to analysis on RNA extracted from biota, tissue, and tumor samples using the Affymetrix GeneChip platform. ISO/IEC 17025:2005 is an international quality-management standard used to assess the competency of analytical laboratories for testing methodologies.

The UK-based diagnostics company was named in Affymetrix's third-quarter 2005 conference call as a member of Affy's Powered by Affymetrix program, which enables independent companies to develop diagnostics based on Affy's GeneChip platform (see BAN 10/26/2005).

Michael Sloan, the director of services at Almac Diagnostics, confirmed this week that ArraDx had been absorbed by Almac, a larger UK-based life sciences company, over the last eighteen months, but declined to offer specifics on the transaction. ArraDx just changed its name to Almac Diagnostics over the past month, Sloane said.

Sloane declined to discuss the company's membership in the Powered by Affymetrix program.

In November, a representative from the company similarly declined to discuss the company's relationship with Affymetrix or specific plans for developing diagnostics, citing the fact that ArraDx has "recently been acquired by a larger organization and will change its name as a result" (see BAN 11/16/2005).


Lumera Signs 10,000-Spot Protein Array Development Deal with Harvard Medical School

Lumera has entered into a collaborative agreement with Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Institute of Proteomics to develop protein microarrays, the company said this week.

Lumera and HMS will develop a silicon chip substrate that combines Lumera's NanoCapture technology with HMS's NAPPA (nucleic acid programmable protein array) technology to create high-density protein arrays with 10,000 spots.

The 10,000-spot array "is a very important step towards our ultimate goal of producing a whole-proteome biochip," said Joshua LaBaer, director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics, in a statement.

According to Lumera, current protein arrays are limited to around 800 spots.

The NAPPA technology, first published in the July 2004 issue of Science, starts with a printed cDNA array and generates a self-assembled protein array using a cell-free expression mix to produce proteins from the printed genes.

HMS and Lumera will share rights to jointly developed intellectual property, but further financial details were not disclosed.


Qiagen Acquires Eppendorf's Reagent Business; Firms to Align Techs

Qiagen has acquired Eppendorf's reagent business for an undisclosed amount, and the two companies have penned an alliance to co-develop and -market certain life-science products for biological sample-management and analysis, Qiagen said last week.

Eppendorf's reagent business includes the Eppendorf "5-Prime" nucleic acid sample-preparation and PCR reagent product lines and related intellectual property, according to Qiagen. The assets also comprise a pipeline of technologies for nucleic acid handling, separation, purification, and amplification.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. However, Qiagen said it expects the reagent business to add $6 million in net sales in 2006 and $11 million in 2007. Qiagen generated $380 million in revenues in 2004, the most current annual period for which figures are available. As part of the deal, Qiagen said it also expects to incur a one-time, $3 million cost in the fourth quarter 2005.


Duke and Affy Sign 5-Year GeneChip Collaboration

Duke University and Affymetrix will collaborate to analyze genomic information, the company said this week.

According to Affy, Duke researchers will use the GeneChip HT System and arrays as part of the five-year collaboration. The initial projects will focus on cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Affymetrix said it will also fund research and clinical projects aimed to lead to new genomic applications on the GeneChip platform, as well as novel diagnostics and screening tests.

Financial details were not disclosed.


Reagent Shop Imgenex Opens R&D Facility in India

Imgenex opened an R&D facility in India last week, the San Diego-based company said this week.

Privately held Imgenex develops and sells reagents including antibodies, gene- and protein-expression systems, and arrays of various cells and tissues for use in research studies. Areas of biological interest include cancer, apoptosis, molecular signaling pathways, cellular aging, and metabolic and infectious diseases.

Imgenex India, located in Bhubaneswar, is staffed by approximately 80 scientists, the company said.


Epitome to Develop Custom Assays for Bristol-Myers Squibb

Epitome Biosystems said last week that it has signed a technology access and product development agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb to use its EpiTag protein-measurement platform.

Under the agreement, Epitome will design custom antibody arrays to measure proteins specified by Bristol-Myers Squibb to accelerate its clinical development programs. In return, Epitome will receive development funding and license fees from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The EpiTag technology uses an in silico approach to identify peptide tags for any protein based on sequence information, Epitome said. The company said the platform enabled the development of multiplex protein assays.

Financial details were not discussed.


Citing New Business Scope, GenTel Changes Name to GenTel BioSciences

Claiming it is "more" than a surface chemistry company, GenTel BioSurfaces has changed its name to GenTel BioSciences, the Madison, Wis.-based company said this week.

GenTel said the name change reflected its growth into an "integrated, full-service multiplex immunoassay company" whose core business centered on biochip products and services.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.