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Affymetrix, Panomics, One Cell Systems, Empire Genomics, CombiMatrix, Applied Biosystems, Asuragen, NuGen Technologies, Roche Applied Sciences, Navigenics, American College of Preventive Medicine

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Affymetrix to Acquire Panomics for $73 Million
 
As BioArray News went to press this week, Affymetrix announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire privately held Panomics, a Fremont, Calif.-based company that Affy said offers a “powerful suite of assay products for a wide variety of low to mid-plex genetic, protein and cellular analysis applications.”
 
Under the terms of the agreement, Affymetrix will pay approximately $73 million in cash to acquire Panomics. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2008, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Affymetrix said it will discuss the impact of this acquisition during the fourth quarter and fiscal 2008 year-end earnings call next year.
 
Affy President and incoming CEO Kevin King said in a statement that the acquisition will strengthen Affymetrix' position in high-growth validation and routine-testing market segments.
 
"As one company, we will be able to serve a much larger customer base around the world with a broader product portfolio that offers a more complete analysis workflow, enabling customers to perform experiments not possible on any other platform," King said.
 
Panomics, which offers measurement tools for RNA, DNA, protein, and cellular analysis, is the third company Affymetrix has acquired over the past year. Affy bought Cleveland, Ohio-based reagent manufacturer USB for $75 million in January, and spent $25 million to acquire Bay Area start-up True Materials in July (see BAN 2/5/2008, BAN 8/12/2008).
 
Affy said it believes Panomics’ products will complement the “recently acquired liquid array technology” from True Materials “enabling Affymetrix to address low- to mid-plex genetic analysis requirements more effectively in the future.”
 
True Materials has developed a digitally encoded microparticle technology that will enable the array manufacturer to enter low to mid-multiplex markets and compete with bead-based platforms. Affy plans to make the technology available sometime next year.
 

 
One Cell, Empire Genomics to Collaborate on DNA Probes
 
One Cell Systems and Empire Genomics this week said that they have inked a DNA probe development and distribution agreement.
 
Under the terms of the pact, Empire will develop locus-specific DNA probes for One Cell for slide-based fluorescent in situ hybridization applications. Empire also will have rights to co-market One Cell’s existing synthetic oligonucleotide probes for chromosome enumeration.
 
The firms expect to launch in January 2009 their first product from the collaboration, which they said will make it possible to enumerate 24 human chromosomes within 24 hours, “a critical requirement for the preimplantation genetic diagnosis segment of the IVF market.”
 
“This agreement allows One Cell to fill gaps in its product line for the oncology, PGD, and prenatal markets,” One Cell COO Ed O’Lear said in a statement. “With Empire’s BAC library we can quickly develop probes to detect chromosomal deletions, inversions, and translocations that are critical for the cancer’s progression.”
 
Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.
 

 
CombiMatrix's Q3 Revenues Drop 41 Percent
 
CombiMatrix last week reported that its third-quarter revenues fell 41 percent due to reduced funding from government contracts year over year and a sharp drop in product sales.
 
The Mukilteo, Wash.-based firm generated total revenues of $1 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 30, compared to revenues of $1.7 million for the third quarter of 2007. Its government contracts revenue declined to $343,000 from $627,000, while its product sales fell to $140,000 from $828,000, and its services revenues increased sharply to $466,000 from $164,000. Revenues from collaboration agreements were flat at $62,000.
 
CombiMatrix President and CEO Amit Kumar said in a call to discuss earnings that the firm’s revenue was “impacted by a slowdown in capital equipment sales as well as a modest decrease in DoD utilization.” He added that the lower revenue from the Department of Defense was due to the completion of two contracts — though the firm announced in July that it had received a new contract worth $923,000 to develop a handheld biochemical detection system.
 
Kumar noted during the call that one of the firm’s four salespeople left the company at the beginning of the third quarter, which had a negative effect on product sales. He said since that time the company has added three salespeople, bringing its total sales staff to six people, who are focused primarily on diagnostics sales.
 
“The core focus of our business, diagnostic services, continued to grow and was 226 percent higher than the third quarter of 2007 and 17 percent higher than the second quarter of 2008,” Kumar said. “We continue to launch new products and plan to meet our commitment of at least one diagnostic product launch per quarter throughout 2007 and 2008.”
 
The firm plans to launch a prostate cancer assay during the last quarter of this year, he noted.
 
CombiMatrix posted a third-quarter net loss of $4.2 million, or $.70 per share, up around 26 percent from a loss of $3.4 million, or $.57 per share, for the third quarter of 2007.
 
The firm’s R&D expenses dropped around 32 percent to $1.3 million from $1.9 million, while its SG&A spending increased around 5 percent to $2.3 million from $2.2 million.
 
CombiMatrix finished the quarter with $11.1 million in cash, cash equivalents, and available-for-sale investments. During the summer, the company bolstered its balance sheet by raising $10 million in a convertible debt financing.
 
CombiMatrix is awaiting a payment of around $36 million from a judgment in its favor from US District Court for the Central District of California. That judgment came in May and ordered the National Union Fire Insurance Company to pay CombiMatrix that amount for refusing to defend and indemnify CombiMatrix under its director and officer’s insurance policy.
 
National Union has since appealed the judgment. Kumar noted during the call that the judgment would continue to collect interest until a final judgment on the appeal. He said that he believes CombiMatrix has enough cash, based on its current burn rate, to sufficiently finance its operations for the next four to five quarters, during which time it hopes to receive the payment from National Union.
 
“Although the capital markets and global economy are in turmoil, we are extremely fortunate that we do not have a need for any immediate financing,” said Kumar.
 

 
ABI, Asuragen to Collaborate with Critical Path Institute on Drug Toxicity Biomarkers
 
Applied Biosystems and Asuragen are collaborating with the Critical Path Institute’s Predictive Safety Testing Consortium to develop a predictive gene signature panel that pharmaceutical companies can use to screen pre-clinical therapeutics for toxicity, ABI said last week.
 
The Critical Path Institute, or C-Path, is a publicly funded non-profit research and education institute established in 2005 to help create and nurture industry, academic, and government collaborations that support the FDA’s 2004 Critical Path Initiative. Under the new collaboration, the institute plans to work with ABI and Asuragen to develop a panel of assays with gene targets associated with carcinogenicity in laboratory rats.
 
Researchers intend to develop a new biomarker panel based on ABI’s TaqMan Gene Signature Array and real-time PCR technology using ABI assays for risk assessment and determining and differentiating genotoxic and non-genotoxic modes of action for candidate drugs.
 
ABI will provide PSTC scientists with RNA expression assays, which the researchers plan to use to develop a biomarker panel that allows them to screen pre-clinical samples for carcinogenicity. Asuragen will contribute laboratory services, pharmacogenomic expertise, and bioinformatics capabilities to the PSTC project.
 
Drug toxicity is the leading cause of pre-clinical drug failures and costs the pharmaceutical industry billions of dollars each year. That, combined with calls from the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to bring better drugs to the market more quickly, has spurred efforts to come up with tools for avoiding drug toxicity.
 
C-Path established its PSTC as a means for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to improve drug safety and speed up their development. The PSTC currently has 16 members as well as scientists from the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency, and academic experts.
 

 
NuGen, Roche Applied Science to Co-develop Small-Sample Array Application
 
NuGen Technologies will collaborate with Roche Applied Sciences to research and develop a NimbleGen array application for use with small, degraded, and compromised samples that can be used in gene expression analysis studies, the firms said last week.
 
The microarray application, designed for use with NuGen’s WT-Ovation technology, will allow scientists to amplify picograms of RNA into micrograms of cDNA that can be used for gene expression analysis, sample sharing, and archiving, the company said.
 
Gerd Maass, head of Roche NimbleGen, said in a statement that the goal “is to give researchers access to a broader range of small and precious samples than they’ve been previously able to investigate.” Maass explained that such access would enable scientists to “unlock information in complex sample types including LCM or tissue biopsies that yield extremely small amounts of compromised RNA.”
 
“Use of smaller samples minimizes the averaging that takes place, enabling researchers to discover details of the tissue or cells of interest,” NuGen Vice President of R&D Doug Amorese added in the joint statement.
 
Financial terms of the agreement and commercialization plans were not released.
 

 
Navigenics Teams with ACPM on Genetic Risk CME Course
 
Consumer genomics firm Navigenics said last week that it is providing an unrestricted educational grant of an undisclosed amount to the American College of Preventive Medicine to develop a continuing medical education course entitled, “Genetic Risk, Screening, and Intervention.”
 
The course will seek to “improve physicians’ understanding of genetic risk factors for disease, the current evidence about the use of genomic tools and technologies to determine risk, and promising practices for utilizing those tools to aid in disease prevention,” the partners said in a statement.
 
They said that ACPM is working with its members and national experts in genomics, prevention, and epidemiology to design the course. ACPM expects the program to compare and contrast the evidence for genetic screening and risk factors to epidemiological approaches typically used to identify disease risk; explore the potential benefits and harms derived from different types of genetic tests; and examine current evidence around genome-association studies and provide a framework for evaluating the quality of such studies.
 
The course is expected to be available on the ACPM website and on DVD-ROM in early 2009.

The Scan

Another Resignation

According to the Wall Street Journal, a third advisory panel member has resigned following the US Food and Drug Administration's approval of an Alzheimer's disease drug.

Novavax Finds Its Vaccine Effective

Reuters reports Novavax's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

Can't Be Used

The US Food and Drug Administration says millions of vaccine doses made at an embattled manufacturing facility cannot be used, the New York Times reports.

PLOS Papers on Frozen Shoulder GWAS, Epstein-Barr Effects on Immune Cell Epigenetics, More

In PLOS this week: genome-wide association study of frozen shoulder, epigenetic patterns of Epstein-Barr-infected B lymphocyte cells, and more.