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BioArray Briefs: 2009.02.03

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Cancer Research UK Purchases Fluidigm Genotyping System

Fluidigm said this week that Cancer Research UK's Centre for Genetic Epidemiology, University of Cambridge, will use its EP1 system to conduct cancer research and disease-association studies.

The center will use the integrated fluidic circuit-based high-throughput genotyping system to identify and verify genetic variants that underlie susceptibility to various cancers, including colorectal, prostate, melanoma, breast, and ovarian. The research will take place at the University's Strangeways Research Laboratory.

The company said that the center has successfully completed validation experiments on the EP1 system using real samples and it now will use it in large genotyping studies.

The system includes the IFC controller, Stand-Alone Thermal Cycler, and End Point Reader, and it can provide over 27,000 genotypes per day.

Financial terms of the purchase were not released.


Fox Chase Licenses Bioinformatics Tools from BioDiscovery

Fox Chase Cancer Center's Keystone Program in Blood Cell Development and Cancer has acquired a site license for two bioinformatics software programs from BioDiscovery.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based bioinformatics firm said that the Keystone Program will use the firm's Nexus Copy Number and Nexus Expression tools for DNA copy number and RNA expression analysis from microarray data.

"The Nexus Suite enables us to be less dependent on in-house bioinformatics support as we attempt to identify the subset of genes regulating development and transformation from among the larger cohort whose altered expression or copy-number is merely correlated with these processes," David Wiest, co-leader of the Keystone Program, said in a statement.

BioDiscovery noted that the two software products support all array platforms including Agilent, Affymetrix, Illumina, Roche NimbleGen, and custom arrays. It said the tools can integrate data from thousands of arrays in a single project and provide a streamlined interface for data exploration.


Mondobiotech, 23andMe Team on Rare Disease Research

23andMe and Swiss company Mondobiotech will collaborate to offer researchers information about certain rare genetic diseases, the California consumer genomics firm said last week.

The collaboration will use genetic information from individuals who suffer from diseases such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, sarcoidoisis, and pulmonary fibrosis. Mondobiotech will identify these patients and sponsor their enrollment in 23andMe's Personal Genome Service. 23andMe’s service uses Illumina’s BeadChip platform.

23andMe said that it will coordinate genome-wide association studies for Mondobiotech affiliates using its research infrastructure and bioinformatics expertise.

Mondobiotech CEO Fabio Cavalli said in a statement that this collaboration "could go a long way towards understanding the causes of the diseases we have been researching."

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.


PerkinElmer's Q4 Revenues Rise 3 Percent; Firm May Divest Array Scanners

PerkinElmer reported last week that its fourth-quarter revenues grew 3 percent, but the firm forecast that its 2009 revenues would be flat or down mid-single digits compared to 2008.

The Waltham, Mass.-based firm brought in revenues of $495 million for the three-month period ended Dec. 28, up 3 percent from revenues of $480.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2007. Sales for its Life and Analytical Sciences segment increased 3 percent year over year to $390.3 million from $379.3 million, while sales for the Optoelectronics segment also rose 3 percent to $104.8 million from $101.4 million.

During the firm's conference call on Thursday, PerkinElmer President and CEO Robert Friel said that the firm's research products business grew in the mid-single digits in 2008. He said that even though large pharmaceutical firms are expected to "hold spending flat," academic and large biotech firms would still be a source of growth for its instruments and reagents. As such, Friel predicted that the research market would provide revenue growth around the low- to mid-single digits throughout 2009.

He also predicted that the firm's diagnostics business would be flat or plus or minus 2 percent growth for 2009. "State funding constraints has limited the near-term growth opportunities for our neonatal screening business in the US, as state labs defer the expansion of the number of tests applied to each newborn, as well as reduce safety stock levels of our reagents and consumables," said Friel during the call.

He noted that such a pullback in genetic testing is not evident in markets outside the US.

PerkinElmer posted a profit of $30.7 million, or $.26 per share, for Q4 2008, down from a profit of $52.6 million, or $.44 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2007. The firm's interest expense for the quarter was $24.3 million versus $5.4 million in Q4 2007.

The company's R&D expenses declined 7 percent to $25.1 million from $26.9 million, while its SG&A spending decreased 4 percent to $120.5 million from $125.7 million.

For full-year 2008, PerkinElmer reported revenues of $1.94 billion versus $1.7 billion. Its net income was $126.4 million, or $1.07 per share, compared to $131.7 million, or $1.09 per share, for full-year 2007.

The firm's 2008 R&D spending rose 4 percent to $108.1 million from $104 million year over year, while its SG&A spending rose 19 percent to $522.9 million from $439.8 million.

PerkinElmer finished the year with $179.1 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Company officials said that they expect the firm to report 2009 organic revenues that are flat to down mid-single digits. They also expect 2009 EPS to be down mid-single digits to mid-teens.

PerkinElmer announced in November that as of Jan. 1, 2009, it would realign its businesses and operate under two new segment names: Human Health and Environmental Health.

The Human Health business develops diagnostics, tools, and applications for biomedical research and drug discovery. This business will include the company’s Genetic Screening, Bio-discovery, and Medical Imaging operating units.

The Environmental Health business is focused on product safety and energy efficiency. It will include the company’s Analytical Sciences, Laboratory Services, and Detection and Illumination (formerly known as Sensors and Specialty Lighting) operating units.

PerkinElmer said that as a result of the realignment it will divest a portion of its specialty lighting business and that it has "decided to exit certain product lines within its Bio-discovery business and reallocate resources to higher growth strategic opportunities within that business."

Friel said during the call that the Bio-discovery product lines the firm was dropping include products focused on proteomics and genomics, including array scanners. He said those products brought in only around $6 million to $7 million for the year. PerkinElmer's Bio-discovery efforts shifted over the past few years to a focus on cellular research.

The businesses that are being discontinued, including the specialty lighting products, account for around $90 million in annual revenue, said Friel.

The Scan

Omicron's Emergence

The World Health Organization has called Omicron a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," the Los Angeles Times writes.

Not as Much

Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients by less than previously reported, the New York Times says.

Bats That Hang Together

Discover magazine writes that researchers have found a social microbiome among vampire bats.

PLOS Papers on CEWAS, Simian Varicella Virus Transcriptome, Dermatomyositis Markers

In PLOS this week: multi-omic approach to home in on genetic risk variants, transcriptomic analysis of the simian varicella virus, and more.