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GE Healthcare, Whatman, DiaGenic, Nanogen

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GE Healthcare to Acquire Whatman for $713M
 
General Electric’s GE Healthcare unit has signed an agreement to acquire Whatman for 270 pence per share, giving the transaction a total value of £363 million ($713 million).
 
The acquisition of Whatman will provide GE Healthcare with a portfolio of filters and membranes for laboratory, research, life sciences, and medical technology applications. GE will also gain Whatman’s line of microarray slides and focused protein arrays, such as its CombiChip Autoimmune 1.0 Array and Serum Biomarker Chip
 
“We believe that Whatman’s considerable expertise in filtration, [and] their strong and innovative product offerings, will be a great addition to our portfolio, particularly in the area of sample preparation,” Peter Ehrenheim, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's life sciences business, said during a conference call this week.
 
He noted that Whatman has new technologies for sample capture and storage, which he said “could be very useful as a component for the diagnostic industry.”
 
Ehrenheim also said that Whatman’s products are particularly complementary to GE Healthcare’s protein chromatography platform and cellular analysis technologies.
 
Whatman recently said that it would report 2007 revenues of roughly £116 million, flat with last year’s results. According to Ehrenheim, GE Healthcare’s life sciences business brings in around $1.3 billion in annual revenue. “For life sciences, this is a big deal,” he said.
 
Whatman will add around 1,100 people to GE Healthcare's total staff of roughly 46,000, of which the life sciences business employs approximately 3,800.
 
The acquisition is subject to the approval of Whatman’s shareholders and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2008. The transaction has been recommended unanimously by the directors of Whatman, who have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the deal. Whatman’s largest shareholder, Hermes Focus Asset Management, which owns approximately 15 percent of Whatman’s outstanding shares, has also agreed to vote in favor of the transaction.
 

 
DiaGenic Reports Preliminary Gene Expression Blood Test Study Data
 
Norwegian biotech company DiaGenic presented preliminary data from its Indian breast cancer gene expression blood test study at a meeting in New Delhi this week.
 
So far the results — based on 113 subjects — suggest DiaGenic’s test is as effective for diagnosing breast cancer in Indian populations as it is in other populations tested, the company said. The firm plans to enroll a total of 720 subjects in the ongoing, multi-center study. The company reported its findings at the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology Societies of India’s annual meeting.
 
The DiaGenic test detects breast cancer by measuring secondary gene expression changes from venous blood samples. This gene expression signature was initially identified in Scandinavian and American patients. Developers are touting the test as an accurate alternative to mammography in pre-menopausal women, who tend to have dense breast tissue that obscures mammography images.
 
The company plans to complete the study within the next few months and said it may eventually market the test in India, where breast cancer often occurs at younger ages than it does in Western countries.
 
“Currently, survival rates for breast cancer are low in India and there is not an effective screening program,” Yathish Kumar, a physician with Panacea Hospitals and investigator on the study, said in a statement. “Using blood as the sample material and being able to screen earlier is thus an extremely attractive proposition and would enable us to start tackling the problem effectively.”
 

 
Nanogen Shareholders Approve Two Proposals Related to Restructuring
 
Nanogen said last week that its shareholders have approved two out of three proposals related to its restructuring efforts, which were announced last September.
 
The firm said that shareholders at its special meeting this week approved an amendment of its restated certificate of incorporation to increase the number of authorized common shares and also to permit the board of directors to effect a reverse stock split at a specific ratio within a range of 1:5 to 1:15, which would be determined by the board.
 
Another proposal, which seeks approval of the company’s debt financing completed in August 2007, received roughly 90 percent approval from voting shareholders, but that proposal remains shy of the necessary total votes, Nanogen said.
 
The firm adjourned the special meeting in order to provide remaining stockholders with the opportunity to vote on the proposal. Nanogen expects to re-adjourn the meeting on Feb. 11 at its offices in San Diego.
 
Nanogen said that it needs approval of the three proposals “to provide the company with increased financing flexibility until positive cash flow is achieved.”
 
As part of its restructuring activities, Nanogen in November decided to shut down its microarray unit, lay off around 20 percent of its staff, and realign the company behind its real-time PCR and point-of-care testing units.

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