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Protein Chip Update: Ciphergen Reports Solid Q1, Outlines Plans for New Chip

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Riding high on a flurry of positive press coverage, protein profiling biochip company Ciphergen reported that its revenues had risen to $6.8 million for the first quarter, from $2.7 million in the first quarter of 2001. The company also laid out plans to further develop its protein arrays and patent protein biomarkers.

The increased revenue included sales of 25 protein chip systems — including its $275,000 automated protein chip system — as well as revenue from its newly acquired BioSepra process division, Ciphergen said.

The company reported widening losses, losing $7.2 million during the quarter compared to a $6 million net loss for the same period in 2001. Ciphergen had $68.7 million in cash, cash equivalents, and securities at the end of March.

“The acceptance of our products and services is allowing us to continue to grow strongly even in a difficult economic environment, which has caused many other research tools companies to report disappointing revenue growth and pare back their expenses,” said CEO William Rich. “We have met our goals and expect to continue to do so going forward.”

“We had strength across the board in systems, consumables, and services,” added Matthew Hogan, the company’s chief financial officer.

Ciphergen’s services business increased to $927,000 compared to $416,000 in the previous year-period. These services are not just fee based, but some allocate to Ciphergen rights to diagnostics and therapeutics that might emerge out of the collaborations.

Rich cited the increase in peer-reviewed publications using Ciphergen’s systems: In 2001, these publications totaled 41, compared to 19 in 2000, and Rich said the company expected “a substantial increase” this year. He also cited the fact that 13 of the 40 National Cancer Institute cancer centers in the US are using Ciphergen’s platform.

Ciphergen is targeting what it calls “the clinical proteomics market”about 25,000 labs led by physician-researchers as well as pharmaceutical preclinical and clinical development groups that want to do pharmaco-proteomics.

“For example, the toxicology group at Pfizer is faced with a large number of potential lead compounds to assess their drug safety profiles prior to entering the clinic,” Rich said. “All of these scientists are very comfortable associating protein biomarker phenotypes with disease staging and treatment or tox assessment or patient responders versus non-responders.”

The company said it expected to complete several clinical studies with 400 to 500 patient samples each, to patent biomarkers as a result of these studies, and to publish several articles in leading journals this year.

Later this year, Ciphergen is planning to launch its new next-generation protein biochip, with SEND (Surface Enhanced Neat Desorption) surfaces. “The surfaces are modified with homogeneous polymeric coatings that interact with bursts of focused laser energy to allow the direct creation of ions without introducing unacceptable levels of chemical noise so that we can analyze them by SELDI on our protein chip systems,” Rich said.

These chips are designed to eliminate the need for chemical matrix solutions as a separate step and to analyze low molecular weight molecules.

“We believe that these new SEND protein chip arrays are particularly exciting as they mark an important step toward creating a novel, chemoproteomics-based drug discovery platform which could be used for on-chip small molecule protein interaction screening,” Rich said.

— MMJ

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