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BioArray Briefs: Apr 5, 2002

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Luminex Slashes Revenue Outlook for Q1, Stops Discounting Systems

 

Austin, Texas bead array maker Luminex shook the already battered confidence of the financial community this week in announcing that its revenues for the first quarter would fall far below Wall Street’s expectations, and that it was abruptly changing its strategy of discounting its machines.

The company said its first-quarter 2002 revenues would total between $2.2 and $2.7 million, and that its diluted loss per share would be in the range of $.20 to $.23 per share ($5.7 to $6.6 million). These losses compare to a previous consensus estimate of $.17 per share (or $4.9 million), based on a poll of seven brokers conducted by FirstCall/Thomson Financial.

In its press release, Luminex said that its revenues failed to meet expectations due to a longer-than-expected sales cycle and its decision to cease offering end-of-quarter discounts on its machines.

This is the fourth time that Luminex has lowered its revenue expectations in a row, according to analysts.

In a conference call to discuss this news, chairman and CEO Mark Chandler said he couldn’t offer a reason why the company had offered discounts even on systems that its partners were contractually obligated to buy. “I wish I could,” Chandler said. “It’s a policy that has been in place for about two years. We are going to stop it, we have stopped it.”

Chandler said the company would now “try to move the price” of its systems to the list price, which falls between $45,000 and $55,000 per unit, but would maintain discounts set in contracts with its partners.

But Chandler couldn’t offer any reassurance as to whether demand for its units from its partners, which sell units with diagnostic or research assays, would pick up soon. “We do not have a very clear idea of what is going to be used in the near term,” he said.

Chandler said the blame for this failure to accurately gauge the demands of the company’s commercialization partners did not rest in any particular employee, but the whole management team.

“It’s really difficult,” he said in an effort to explain this failure. “These partners could tell us they are absolutely certain they are going to get this contract, and might tell our sales people this means 20 units, then they knock down to 15. And if it doesn’t come in everybody’s got a problem.”

Separately, Chandler also said that the entire management team would be coming under review by a management organizational search committee. “[The committee will] recommend changes to the entire team if deemed appropriate,” he said.

 

Agilent Validates Bioanalyzer for PCR-based RNA Quantitation

 

Agilent’s 2100 bioanalyzer has gained a reputation as a reliable device for verifying quality of mRNA in expression studies, but now the company is billing its instrument for PCR-based semiquantitation of mRNA expression.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Research Center Technology and Environment in Karlsruhe, Germany tested the Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer in conjunction with the DNA 1000 LabChip kit to do multiplex reverse transcription PCR, the company said.

“Generating data with the Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer is one of the fastest and most robust methods for the analysis of quantitative or semiquantitative PCR applications I have experienced to date,” Eric Gottwald of the Forschungszentrum said in a statement.

The researchers used the primer dropping method, and were also able to analyze a multitude of genes in a single reaction.

The company said this method could replace real-time PCR for some applications.

Agilent has published a note on this new application of the 2100 Bioanalyzer, “Semiquantitative Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction with the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer,” publication number 5988-4556EN. The note is available from Agilent’s website, www.agilent.com/chem.

 

Arraying Laser Maker Arryx Raises $2.1M

 

Laser beam array maker Arryx of Chicago has raised $2.1 million in a second round of financing.

The company, led by former Hyseq CEO Lewis Gruber, manufactures the BioRyx system, which uses a hologram to break a laser beam into multiple beamlets — a process named Holographic Optical Trapping (HOT). These mini beams are then aimed through a microscope to create optical traps or tweezers. Each trap is capable of grabbing a bead with DNA or protein attached. In each experiment, researchers can program the traps to grab specific beads, creating a customizable array of particular nucleotides or proteins.

The company plans to market the system for high throughput screening, cancer genetics, and cell reproduction research, said Gruber.

Investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson Fund VII, Fahnestock Venture Capital Fund, and ARCH Development Fund.

Nature Biotech Paper Validates BAC Arrays to Detect Chromosomal changes

 

Researchers have for the first time used genome-wide mouse BAC arrays in nailing down chromosomal changes in tumor cells.

The study, published in April''s Nature Biotechnology, involved mouse BAC arrays in which the DNA was printed on an unmodified glass slide. This approach not only reduced hybridization backgrounds in contrast to traditional microarrays, the BACs also proved effective in detecting the loss of heterozygosity compared with the more conventional microsatellite approach.

"BACs are great for detecting absolute copy number changes in tumors," said Allan Balmain, a professor of cancer genetics at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Center, and a study author. "It enables you to detect absolute changes in copy numbers or deletion numbers of genes," he added. "We needed a genome-wide method for rapidly narrowing down important areas for research."

Research for this paper, "Genome-wide detection of chromosomal imbalances in tumors using BAC microarrays," was also performed by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK.

The researchers used glass microarrays made by Spectral Genomics of Houston. Spectral Genomics is commercializing genomic arrays in which a patented chemistry of BAC clones with linkers forms a tight covalent bond to the naked glass. Allen Bradley and Wei-wen Cai from Baylor, who were co-authors on the paper, invented this technology and serve as scientific advisors to Spectral Genomics.

This BAC microarray approach enabled the researchers to detect absolute copy number changes with high fidelity. However, the authors noted that microsatellite analysis often provided better qualitative indications of allele loss or imbalance.This led the team to recommend using a combination of both approaches to help detect genetic links to tumors.

In cases where speed is of importance such as diagnostics, the BAC approach would be preferable: a thousand BACs on one chip can be hybridized in several hours while microsatellite analysis often takes weeks.

"The primary application is for tumor screening," said Balmain. "You could use BAC-array profiles as a diagnostic tool to show how nasty a tumor is."

The number of BACs on a single chip could rise to30,000 within two or three years, Balmain said.

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.