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Sequenom, Nasdaq, CombiMatrix, VWR International, BioCat, Kreatech, ABI, and others.


Sequenom Receives Delisting Warning from Nasdaq,
Puts Faith in Restructuring and New Products to Drive Growth

Sequenom has received a warning letter from Nasdaq's listing qualifications department because the company's shares do not comply with Nasdaq's $1 minimum bid price requirement, Sequenom said this week

The company failed to keep the closing price of its shares at or above $1 for 30 consecutive business days.

Sequenom now has 180 days, or until March 15, 2006, to regain compliance by closing at or above $1 per share for at least 10 consecutive business days. If the company does not regain compliance by this deadline, its common stock will be delisted.

Last week, Sequenom announced that it will lay off around 30 percent of its workforce, or 44 staffers, in a large-scale restructuring aimed at cutting costs and redirecting resources.

The step is expected to save the San Diego company between $7 million and $9 million in cash burn next year after recording a $1 million charge in severance and other costs, the firm said in a statement last week.

The company said that it will "consider additional steps to raise capital including accessing financial markets and advancing strategic partnerships" in light of these new developments.

"Currently, we are in the process of stabilizing the core genetic analysis business and focusing on initiatives with high growth prospects," Harry Stylli, Sequenom's new president and CEO, said in a statement. "In parallel, Sequenom has prioritized key product and service initiatives that, in due course, are expected to drive growth and create value.

"Further, Sequenom's core technology is demonstrating emerging utility in the molecular diagnostics market," he continued. "We expect to capitalize on our promising potential in this large and fast growing market primarily through key strategic partnerships."

As part of the restructuring, Sequenom intends to focus on its flagship MassArray platform and its iPlex multiplexing assay. It also said it plans to launch several new applications for use with its MassArray system within the next year.

Specifically, the company said it plans to offer products and services for quantitative gene expression and methylation services; launch a series of applications that will "significantly" reduce cost per genotype beginning with the iPlex multiplexing assay; develop multiplexed quantitative methylation and multiplexed QGE for "fine mapping and molecular diagnostics; launch a "cost effective" MassArray product for lower-throughput users; and take advantage of internally developed biomarkers in hopes of sparking developmental partnerships.

Among other steps, Sequenom said it also plans to "evaluate opportunities to license IP to more broadly enable the analysis of nucleic acids by mass spectrometry." The company's MassArray platform is based on mass spec.

In addition, Sequenom said chief financial officer Steve Zaniboni will step down during the fourth quarter because the company plans to consolidate the CFO position with that of the vice president of finance. That position is currently held by John Sharp.

Lastly, Sequenom said it has negotiated a rent deferral of approximately $3.2 million over two years for its corporate headquarters, and continues to explore subleasing options for this facility. The company is also taking steps to lower costs by reviewing its key supplier relationships.

CombiMatrix to Obtain $10.5M in Stock Placement;
Inks Global Distribution Deal with VWR International

CombiMatrix will receive $10.5 million from a registered direct stock offering by its parent company, Acacia Research, the company said last week.

Under the terms of the offering, Acacia will sell approximately 6.4 million shares of CombiMatrix's stock at $1.65 per share to a "select group of accredited investors." These investors will also obtain five-year warrants for the purchase of a total of approximately 1.6 million shares of common stock at an exercise price of $2.40 per share. Piper Jaffray is the exclusive placement agent for the transaction.

CombiMatrix vice president Bret Undem told BioArray News last week that the funding would mostly go towards its CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics and CBMX operations.

The company founded its CMD subsidiary in May (see BAN 5/11/2005).

The company also reported last week that VWR International will distribute its arrays worldwide.

Under the agreement, West Chester, Penn.-based VWR will distribute custom and catalog arrays from CombiMatrix to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, government agencies, and academic institutions, according to a statement from Mike Tognotti, CombMatrix vice president of sales and marketing.

BioCat to Distribute Kreatech's Labeling
Tech in Germany, Switzerland, Austria

Kreatech Biotechnology has signed up BioCat to distribute its molecular labeling technology in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, the Amsterdam-based company said last week.

Under the agreement, BioCat, located in Heidelberg, Germany, will supply Kreatech's Universal Linkage System, which allows users to attach a variety of labels to DNA, RNA, or proteins, to laboratories in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Kreatech said it expects to expand its distribution network further in the next few month, both in Europe and Asia.

ABI Working with Harvard Medical School, Trinity College
Dublin on Thyroid Cancer and Heart Disease Biomarkers

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Trinity College Dublin have been working with Applied Biosystems on developing early-stage prognostic biomarkers for thyroid cancer and heart disease, ABI said in a statement last week.

Guillermo García-Cardeña, an assistant professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement that his team had been using ABI's 1700 Expression Array System to investigate biomarkers that may indicate healthy endothelium or blood vessel lining. "Dysfunctional endothelium lining is a primary cause of heart disease," García-Cardeña said in a statement.

In addition, researchers from Trinity College Dublin evaluated biomarkers for papillary thyroid cancer, the most common form of thyroid cancer, using the Applied Biosystems Expression Array System. Both teams presented their findings at IBC's Chips to Hits conference held in Boston last week.

ABI also revealed this week that researchers at the Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research are using the Applied Biosystems Expression Array System to identify genes associated with atherosclerosis.

A spokesperson from ABI said that Garcia was working on publishing his data, but that she could not confirm if the other two studies will be published.

Expression Analysis Expands Array Service
Contract with EPA; Payday May Increase to $6.7M

The US Environmental Protection Agency has extended and expanded its contract with Expression Analysis to include "additional services and technologies" developed by the company, which will increase the total potential value of the deal to the company by around $4.2 million, the firm said last week.

According to the microarray genetics testing and analysis company, the original contract, for $1.5 million, can be extended for two additional option years at $1.5 million per year for a maximum value of around $4.5 million.

The expanded contract, for $1.6 million, can also be expanded for two years at $2.6 million for the first option year and $2.5 million for the second option year, bringing to around $6.7 million the total potential revenue for Expression Analysis.

The original deal, in which Expression Analysis uses Affymetrix DNA chips, will be updated to enable EPA researchers to access Expression Analysis' statistical tools such as its Reduction of Invariant Probes, Permutation Analysis of Differential Expression, and "other analysis and normalization methods," the company said. The firm will continue to use Affy arrays for the duration of the expanded contract.

The Scan

Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

A JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery study says polygenic risk scores associated with hearing loss in older adults is also associated with hearing decline in younger groups.

Genome-Wide Analysis Sheds Light on Genetics of ADHD

A genome-wide association study meta-analysis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder appearing in Nature Genetics links 76 genes to risk of having the disorder.

MicroRNA Cotargeting Linked to Lupus

A mouse-based study appearing in BMC Biology implicates two microRNAs with overlapping target sites in lupus.

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.