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GenTel BioSciences, Illumina, CombiMatrix, Northrop Grumman, Bayer Healthcare, Genomatix, Med Biogene

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NIH Awards GenTel $1.2M to Develop Array-Based Allergy Diagnostic

GenTel BioSciences said this week that it has received a two-year, $1.2 million Phase II SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a blood-based test to identify specific allergic responses.

The new allergy chip will bring to three the number of content-specific arrays the microarray slide provider has pledged to bring to market.

GenTel CEO Alex Vodenlich told BioArray News this week in an e-mail that the company plans to eventually put 40 to 100 allergens on the biochip, but will start with 22 respiratory allergens.

Vodenlich said that the allergy chip is third in line when it comes to GenTel's schedule for releasing content-specific protein chips.

The first chip the company launched is the Coag Chip, which became available in the first quarter (see BAN 1/17/2006).

As Robert Negm, GenTel's vice president, told BioArray News in January, the Coag Chip measures 10 analytes simultaneously from the same sample, and provides researchers with a molecular signature that can be used in identifying who is at risk in getting thrombosis as well as a hemostatic profile that can be associated with the likelihood of recurrence of thrombosis after the patient is treated with anti-coagulant drugs.

In addition to the Coag Chip, Vodenlich said this week that the firm is working on a cancer-related protein array diagnostic. He also said that the prototype for the allergy chip should be finished by the end of this year.

According to a statement from GenTel, the company hopes to place several beta-testing instruments in doctor's offices in the second year of the project. GenTel also said it hopes its new allergy test will replace puncture tests, the most common technique for allergy diagnosis in the United States.

In order to better access the clinical market, Vodenlich said that GenTel was looking to partner with a tool vendor to co-market its chips in one complete system. He singled out Decision Biomarkers, the Massachusetts company that originally licensed GenTel the surface chemistry for its flagship FAST microarray slides and now acts as a distributor for GenTel's slides, as a possible instrument provider.

"To make this more useful in a clinical setting, we are going to have to make this an automated chip. One of the companies we are talking to is Decision Biomarkers," Vodenlich said.

"We haven't yet really inked a deal to do the development on their instrument but that would be a good collaboration," he said. DBI has announced plans to launch its system, the Avantra Q400 this quarter (see BAN 1/17/2006).

"There are other instrumentation platforms out there, but this seems like a logical partnership for GenTel," Vodenlich said.


Illumina Expects to Pocket $83.6M in Stock Placement

Illumina announced last week that it will sell 3.5 million shares of its common stock for $25.50 per share.

The company expects to receive net proceeds of about $83.6 million from the sale. Illumina last week disclosed its intent to sell the shares, but did not disclose the per-share price (see BAN 5/16/2006). The company's shares closed down at $26.27 on Monday afternoon.

Illumina has granted the underwriters of the offering the right to purchase an additional 525,000 shares of common stock.

Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch are acting as joint bookrunning and co-lead managers of the offering, while Cohen and Company and Robert W. Baird are acting as co-managers.


CombiMatrix Signs Biodefense Subcontract with Northrop Grumman

CombiMatrix has signed a subcontract with Northrop Grumman to develop components for DARPA's Handheld Isothermal Silver Standard Sensor program, CombiMatrix parent company Acacia Research said this week.

The HISSS program is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Project Office. The goal of the program is to develop a handheld sensor to identify biological weapon threats, including bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

The HISSS sensor will be based on "isothermal technologies that hold the promise of allowing silver-standard quality identification in a small, low-logistics package," according to a DARPA website describing the project.

Financial support for the project is through a contract awarded to Northrop Grumman. Additional financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

If the Northrop Grumman contract expands into Phase IV and procurement, CombiMatrix "may be awarded additional contracts to develop technology and supply components," the company said.


Bayer Healthcare Licenses Genomatix' ChipInspector Software

Genomatix said this week that Bayer HealthCare has licensed its ChipInspector microarray data analysis platform.

Genomatix said that Bayer will use ChipInspector chip to analyze raw data from Affymetrix GeneChip and exon arrays. Bayer will also use Genomatix' Microarray Analysis Pipeline to integrate literature and pathway mining as well as promoter analysis on the sequence level.

The company added that ChipInspector has been awarded Affymetrix GeneChip-Compatible status from the microarray manufacturer.


Med Biogene's Net Losses Doubled on Increased R&D Investment in 2005

Med Biogene, a spinout from the University of British Columbia, last week said that it had doubled its net loss in 2005, even though sales for the year surged by nearly 90 percent.

For the year ended Dec. 31, 2005, Med Biogene reported a net loss of $893,416, compared to a net loss of $429,918 in 2004.

The company's revenues grew to $33,742, up 87 percent from $18,000 last year. Med Biogene attributed the increase in revenues to an increase in demand for its microarray services.

Research and development expenses for the year were $401,176 compared to $222,634 in 2004. Med Biogene said that the increases were primarily due to investments in personnel and laboratory supplies, as well as activity related to the development of the company's Hematological Cancer Profiling System.

Med Biogene did not disclose its cash holdings as of Dec. 31, 2005.

The Scan

US Supports Patent Waivers

NPR reports that the Biden Administration has announced its support for waiving intellectual property protections for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Vaccines Versus Variants

Two studies find the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be effective against viral variants, and Moderna reports on booster shots to combat variants.

CRISPR for What Ails You

The Wall Street Journal writes that CRISPR-based therapies could someday be used to treat common conditions like heart attacks.

Nature Papers Review Integration of Single-Cell Assay Data, Present Approach to Detect Rare Variants

In Nature this week: review of ways to integrate data from single-cell assays, and more.