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Spotters in DisArray: GeneMachines Cuts 20 Jobs, Genomic Solutions Gets Nasdaq Notice

Arraying instrument maker GeneMachines of San Carlos, Calif., has laid off approximately 20 employees, mostly from manufacturing, in an effort to offset a drop in sales and allay costs. The reductions, which bring to 60 the total number of remaining employees, were made last week and reflected a need “to align expense with revenue,” Terry Allread, GeneMachines’ new chief operating officer, told BioArray News’ sister publication GenomeWeb.

“We’re off our revenue projections this year due to a general slow-down in the capital equipment industry,” said Allread. “I think it’s the economy across the board right now. People are being very cautious” in making new purchases, he said.

Allread said sales of oligo synthesis equipment were hit hardest compared to other GeneMachines tool lines, which include microarrays. He said many of the company’s customers complained that grant cycles were taking longer, leading to increased waiting periods for funds to make equipment purchases. GeneMachines has no plans for further staff reductions.

Meanwhile, Genomic Solutions of Ann Arbor, Mich., which laid off 25 percent of its workforce last September, received a deficiency notice from the Nasdaq staff June 12 announcing that its stock price had failed to maintain a price of $1.00 for the past 30 days, as required by the Nasdaq’s marketplace rule 4450(a)(5).

Under the rule, the company has 90 days to become compliant with the $1 per share minimum. Genomic Solutions said it was evaluating alternatives in light of the notice.

 

Nanogen Signs NASA Deal, Gets Ready to Launch CF Test

Nanogen has placed one of its NanoChip molecular biology workstations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center, the company said last week.

NASA scientists at the center will use the workstation to develop SNP and short tandem repeat analysis assays that can be used to monitor astronaut health. Researchers at the agency’s Center for Nanotechnology will also evaluate the Nanogen system for potential applications in developing biosensors to be used for astrobiological and biomedical applications.

Under the agreement, Nanogen, based in San Diego, will have commercialization and intellectual property rights to those assays. As with the other development agreements, NASA will have the option to purchase the NanoChip system at the end of the collaboration.

Separately, Nanogen reiterated at its annual stockholders meeting last week that it was still planning to launch a NanoChip-based cystic fibrosis analyte-specific reagent by the end of the second quarter and that it would add 10 new ASRs by the end of 2002, one of which would be a three-SNP hereditary hemachromatosis assay. The company also said it would continue to pursue government biowarfare-related contracts.

 

Luminex Lassoes Genetic Solutions for Cattle Kit Collaboration

Luminex has added to its prodigious lineup of collaborators Australian firm Genetic Solutions. The firm will develop kits based on xMap technology to test animal health and identify traits in livestock, and will target the cattle industry, the companies said last week.

The agreement specifies that Genetic Solutions, based in Brisbane, has worldwide nonexclusive rights to develop and distribute kits that use the Luminex 100 system and the company’s microsphere beads. Luminex will receive royalties in addition to revenue from the sale of instruments.

“The Luminex technology will enable us to increase the throughput of our current DNA diagnostic tests,” stated Jay Hetzel, scientific director at Genetic Solutions. “Importantly, it will also provide a platform for the development of multigene and multitrait tests in the near future.”

Luminex’ xMap system uses microsphere-based assays with fluorescent tags and small lasers to perform up to 100 assays simultaneously on a drop of fluid. It can be used as a medium- and high-throughput assay for pharmaceutical, diagnostic, and research applications.

 

What’s Behind Lynx’s Recent Management Changes?

Providing an explanation for the recent management shakeup at Lynx Therapeutics, in which CEO Norrie Russell was replaced by vice president Kevin Corcoran, chairman of the board Craig Taylor said the change came as a consequence of the company’s new narrowed focus in the wake of its new $22.6 million financing round and force reduction.

“With the force reduction, [there were] two of the things we put on hold for development: One was a program called Megatype and another one was our genomic discovery group,” said Taylor. “Norrie had been head of discovery at Zeneca prior to their merger [with Astra], and he came to Lynx because he was pretty jazzed about the discovery capabilities of MPSS.”

At Lynx, Russell had a plan to “move up the value chain and become a drug company,” Taylor said. “We really decided to become a good old-fashioned information and tool company and not move up the value chain and become a drug company. We are really not doing what he wanted to do.”

Corcoran, on the other hand, “has been involved in the development of MPSS from day one,” Taylor said. Since the company’s new round of financing, which closed April 17, Lynx has signed MPSS genotyping agreements with the National Cancer Institute, the Institute for Systems Biology, and Wilex, a cancer-focused biopharmaceutical company based in Munich.

The new wave of contracts, said Taylor, reflect the company’s desire to start making money and turn cash flow positive before the funding runs out.

“That’s what the company is going to be about: Making money, not making discoveries,” he said.

Following the change in CEOs, Lynx announced Monday that it had appointed former Corning and Millennium manager Thomas Vasicek as vice president of business development — a position that has been vacant since William Wong resigned in November 2001— and that chief scientific officer Richard Woychik would leave in August to head the Jackson Lab in Maine.

 

Phylos Wins $358,326 SBIR Grant for Cytokine Array

Phylos of Lexington, Mass., announced this week it had won a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease.

The $358,326 grant, which lasts through 2004, will allow the company to continue developing a multiplexed cytokine microarray with its Trinectin binding proteins serving as capture agents. The company’s first SBIR grant for work on this technology was awarded in 1999. Combined the grants total $1.4 million.

Trinectin binding proteins, according to Phylos, come from small non-antibody protein domains that resemble antibodies in structure and in binding sites. The company is combining these proteins with its ProFusion technology, which links proteins to encoded mRNA and is designed to enable amplification of this complex to a detectable level, on its protein chips.

The company is developing a high-throughput array-based platform to simultaneously measure different cytokine levels using only small amounts of biological sample. Earlier in the month, Phylos announced a partnership with Upstate to develop these binding proteins.

 

Affymetrix Signs on Organon as EasyAccess Customer

Adding to its star-studded roster of clients, Affymetrix has signed a multi-year agreement with Dutch pharma company Organon that gives Organon access to Affymetrix standard and custom microarrays, instruments, and software, the companies said last week.

Under this type of contract, an EasyAccess Silver agreement, a large company pays a set fee to Affymetrix of up to several million dollars, and in turn receives Affymetrix microarray products at a volume discount. Affymetrix has forged similar agreements with Janssen Research Foundation, the R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Merck & Co., Procter & Gamble, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Sankyo of Japan, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Rhône-Poulenc Rorer, and GlaxoSmithKline, some of which have been expanded further.

 

SPSS To Webcast Microarray Seminar

Statistics giant SPSS is holding an online seminar in which Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, the founder of KDnuggets, and Sridhar Ramaswamy, biologist at the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research and Harvard Medical School, will present the best ways to use SPSS data mining templates, including the Clementine Application Template, for microarray gene expression analysis. The 60-minute seminar will be held Wednesday, June 26 at 11:00 AM US Central Time. After the seminar participants will be able to pose questions to the presenters. Prospective participants can register at http://us1.webex.com/spssevents/ or by calling 1-800-543-5815.

The Scan

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