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Roche NimbleGen to Quit Array Market, Lay off Majority of Staff, Close European Facilities

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This story was originally posted on June 4.

Roche has decided to shutter its NimbleGen microarray business, and will phase out array production and services by the end of the year. At the same time, the firm will continue to provide target enrichment products for use with next-generation sequencing, a spokesperson confirmed last week.

As part of the restructuring, most current Roche NimbleGen employees will lose their jobs. The spokesperson told BioArray News that 44 out of the company's 100 staffers at its headquarters in Madison, Wis., will be laid off by year end, while all 76 positions at the company's facilities in Iceland and Germany will be eliminated.

The spokesperson did not explain Roche's decision to exit the array market or what would become of the company's array-related assets, other than saying that the firm has decided to concentrate on sequence capture solution phase and array products. However, Dan Zabrowski, head of Roche Applied Science, shed more light on the reasons for Roche's decision and its plans for the array business in an interview with BioArray News this week (see related story, this issue).

NimbleGen Systems was founded in 1999 based on technology developed at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The firm planned an initial public offering of stock in 2007, but Roche bought NimbleGen for $272.5 million before it could go public (BAN 6/26/2007).

Dr. Albert

According to Zabrowski, Roche will maintain R&D, manufacturing, and marketing staff in Madison, and has tapped Tom Albert to lead a team to develop new technologies for the life sciences market.

Albert is vice president of research at Roche NimbleGen and was director of advanced research at NimbleGen Systems before its acquisition, where he played a role in the development of NimbleGen's sequence capture technology.

Zabrowski said that Albert's team will look at "early disruptive technologies" and then apply them to the company's appropriate businesses.

Specifically, he said that Albert's team will be focusing on "enhancing and continuing to develop" Roche's sequence capture product line. Another important element for Albert's team will be a "very aggressive collaboration strategy with academic labs," Zabrowski said.

Zabrowski noted that Roche has already earmarked a "sufficient amount of funding" for such partnerships. While he did not provide a dollar amount for the investment, Zabrowski estimated that Roche should be able to fund "somewhere between 20 and 30 collaborations" with the money that it has given to Albert's team.

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