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Directif GmbH, Epidauros Biotechnology, Icoria, Monsanto, TGen/IGC, Ordina, Agilent, MWG Biotech, Affymetrix, NCI, Sequenom


Directif Partners with Epidauros to Market
Its LabChip for Clinical Diagnostics

Directif GmbH and Epidauros Biotechnology have signed a co-development and co-marketing agreement for Directif's LabChip technology, the firms said last week.

Epidauros, a provider of pharmacogenetic assays and services, will partner with Directif, a subsidiary of November AG based in Erlangen, Germany, to create "client-specific" applications for the LabChip technology, which offers automated analysis of nucleic acids for clinical diagnostic applications.

Bernried, Germany-based Epidauros said that it will market the LabChip to its established clientele of international pharmaceutical companies.

Epidauros licensed a genetic polymorphism to Roche in November 2004 for use in its AmpliChip CYP450 test.

Financial details of the collaboration were not discussed.

Icoria Re-Emerges as Biomarker-Discovery
Shop, Sells Ag Business to Monsanto for $6.8M

Icoria has refashioning itself as a biomarker-discovery company after selling its agricultural genomics assets to Monsanto for $6.75 million, exiting the ag-genomics business, the firm said last week.

The company will continue to offer its services as a research partner to pharma and biotech companies, and will maintain its Paradigm Array Labs business, which provides gene-expression profiling services using Affymetrix, Agilent, and proprietary technologies.

Monsanto, which will get Icoria's Research Triangle Park, NC, facility in the deal, paid $4.75 million up front for the assets, with the remainder to be paid in January 2006, Icoria said.

Icoria has conducted genomic agricultural research under contract for Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, and DuPont Crop Science, and said it will exit the field after concluding its contracts. No date was provided.

Icoria said it expects savings of $5.2 million from reduced lease obligations, $3 million in net cash flow benefit, as well as an additional $4 million in annual savings in general and administrative costs.

With the sale of these assets, Icoria, which changed its name from Paradigm Genetics last August, said it would reposition itself to focus on biomarker discovery for diabetes, obesity, and liver injury, using its metabolomics, gene-expression profiling, tissue analysis software, and computational assets.

TGen/IGC's New Worldwide
Headquarters Opens in Phoenix

Phoenix last week officially opened the $46 million dollar headquarters for the Translational Genomics Institute and International Genomics Consortium as part of the state-funded Phoenix Biomedical Center.

The 173,000 square-foot TGen/IGC building is owned by the City of Phoenix, and forms the foundation for the 28-acre PBC, which is part of an Arizona initiative to lure more biotech companies to a cluster that includes the Mayo Clinic, NIDDK, the Barrow Neurological Institute, and others.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano called the PBC "very important for the state's future economic growth" and said it will "benefit all [of Arizona's] citizens."

Ordina, Erasmus Medical Center Ally to
Provide Genomics, Proteomics Data Analysis

Ordina, an information-technology service provider based in the Netherlands, last week announced a collaboration to develop diagnostics services based on proteomics and gene-expression data with Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Ordina and the Erasmus Medical Center, which includes the faculty of medicine and health sciences of Erasmus University and the University Hospital of Rotterdam, will initiate projects providing services to analyze the clinical, biological, and experimental information from DNA microarray-based experiments.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Agilent CEO Calms South
Koreans After VP's Departure

New Agilent CEO William Sullivan assuaged South Korean worries last week after the resignation of Korean-born senior vice president Sohn Young-kwon left some fearing that the company would divest its interests in the country, a Korean newspaper reported.

According to the Korean Times, Sullivan told journalists in Seoul that Agilent "will make no investment change in Korea because we wish for our customers to be successful."

Agilent made significant investments in South Korea during Sohn's tenure, mostly related to its telecommunications business although it does have some life sciences operations there.

In total, Agilent Korea has 284 employees with offices in Daejun, Daegu, Seoul, and Suwon.

Christina Maehr, a spokesperson for Agilent, told BioArray News that while the company doesn't have any life science facilities in South Korea they "certainly do sell there and that's not going to change."

MWG Biotech's 2004 Revenues Decline 23.2 Percent

MWG Biotech last week reported total revenues of €33 million ($42.6 million) for 2004, down €10 million from €43 million in 2003.

The Ebersberg, Germany-based company did not report fourth-quarter revenues, but attributed its 23.2 percent year-on-year loss to the divestment and eventual sales of its Genomic Diagnosis (microarrays) and Genomic Technology (lab automation) units.

Still, MWG reported that its two core units, Genomic Synthesis and Genomic Information, also did not perform as well in 2004, bringing in €23.5 million in total turnover, compared to €27 million from the year prior.

MWG did not report R&D costs, but did announce that as of Dec. 31, 2004, it had €9.2 million cash, down from €11.5 million at the end of 2003.

The company said in a statement that it would continue to pare its workforce down to 165 employees from 285 through the first half of 2005. The company began cutting its workforce in October 2004 when it made the decision to divest its microarray and lab-automation units. Since then it has also closed subsidiaries in Ireland, Denmark, Italy, France, and the UK, though last week it signed on an Italian distributor, M-Medical.

MWG Biotech completed the sale of its Genomic Diagnosis unit to Ocimum Biosolutions in February, following the sale of its Genomic Technology unit to Aviso the same month. Financial details of both deals were not disclosed.

Affy, NCI Publish Genome
Study Findings in Science

A collaborative study conducted by Affymetrix and the National Cancer Institute has determined that transcribing the human genome may be a little bit more complicated that previously thought.

The group's findings of the group, as reported in Science magazine online, show that thousands of regions of the genome are transcribed into overlapping RNA sequences that are, in turn, separated by regions in which RNA is transcribed more scarcely.

"These data point us toward two critical and exciting questions: What are the functions of these previously unannotated transcripts and what are the regulation schemes that orchestrate such complex assemblies of transcription?" said Thomas Gingeras, the vice president for biological research at Affy and author of the Science article.

Sequenom May Pay Non-Management Directors
Up to $36K in 2005; Outlines Bonuses for Top Brass

By the end of 2005, Sequenom may have paid its non-management board members as much as $36,000 as the result of a compensation agreement recently signed by the company's board, according to documents filed with the SEC last week.

In the same document, Sequenom also outlined a 2005 bonus schedule for top management.

The company's board of directors approved on March 17 to pay its six non-management members $1,500 apiece for each "special" board meeting attended in person and $1,000 for each special meeting attended electronically, the SEC document said. Additionally, non-management board members will receive $1,000 for each special committee meeting attended personally or electronically, the document added.

Sequenom does not pay non-management directors to attend board meetings or committee meetings, the company said.

There is typically one special board meeting per year and as many as five special committee meeting per year, said a Sequenom spokesperson. Special committee meetings include audit committee, compensation committee, and nomination and governance committee meetings, she added.

Sequenom also said that its CEO and executive vice president of sales and marketing will receive as their 2005 bonuses 50 percent of their base salaries for the year. Bonuses for the chief financial officer and chief medical officer will be 35 percent of their total base salary; vice presidents will receive 25 percent; and director-level employees 15 percent.

Sequenom's bonus program is based on "the achievement of total revenue and maximum cash burn targets and MassArray system sales and product launch milestones, completion of specified compliance objectives, and other criteria the disclosure of which would reveal confidential business information and plans of the registrant," the company said in the SEC filing.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.