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Zyomyx to Remain in Business Despite Massive Layoffs

The chief technology officer of protein chip company Zyomyx has denied a posting on the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board’s website stating that the company will close its doors on Oct. 19, leaving 44 employees out of work.

CTO Peter Wagner said that the company was required to submit paperwork to the ACWIB because of the magnitude of layoffs that the company had undergone, but that paperwork should not be interpreted as a closure of the company.

“The company at this point is not planning to close down,” Wagner said.

Dorothy Chen, the director at the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board, said that her organization had received a letter from Hayward, Calif.-based Zyomyx informing them about its closure.

By state law, all California companies with more than 50 employees are required to send a letter to the California Employment Development Department and to the Department of Labor-funded ACWIB a month before they close so that the state agencies can prepare for laid-off workers hitting the unemployment office, said Chen.

Zyomyx announced in February that it had raised $10 million in venture capital from investors including CSFB Private Equity, Alloy Ventures, Lilly BioVentures, Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, Mediphase, and Bio One Capital.

“Situtations can change from month to month,” said a partner from Mediphase Venture Partners, an equity investor in Zymoyx. The partner was unaware of plans to close and asked not to give his name. “They have gone through a couple of layoffs as they’ve tried to rationalize their business and reduce their cost structure, and as far as I know they’re still working on it.”

Wagner said Zyomyx plans on issuing a release two to three weeks from now to inform the public about the company’s plans.


Agilent to Work with Icoria on $11.7 Million NIST Project

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program approved Agilent Technologies to collaborate with Icoria on a drug-reaction bioinformatics project funded by a $11.7 million ATP grant, Icoria said last week.

The ATP awarded the grant in support of its Target Assessment Technologies Suite, said the statement. The TATS project works to develop software and database technologies useful in identifying gene function and associated “leads for new pharmaceutical and chemical products rapidly, reliably, and efficiently,” according to the ATP website.

Agilent takes the place of Lion Bioscience, which withdrew from the project, said the statement.

Agilent will use its Agilent Synapsia Informatics Workbench, a data association framework for use in the study of “vast amounts” of genomic, proteomic, toxicologic, and drug efficacy data, the company said. The grant will fund an “enhancement” of the framework, and the two companies will work toward developing a commercializable software product, the company added.


Agilent Donates Microarrays to Vanderbilt for Genomics Courses

Agilent Technologies today said that it has donated $60,000 worth of cDNA microarray kits to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center for use in improving and developing undergraduate and graduate courses in genomics and bioinformatics.

The university’s gene expression facility, the Vanderbilt Microarray Shared Resource, performs analysis of roughly 1,800 arrays per year.


GE Healthcare Unit Takes in $3.3 Billion in Q3

General Electric Healthcare contributed total orders of $3.3 billion to the company’s reported total revenues of $38 billion for the third quarter ending Sept. 30, up from $33.4 billion for the same period last year, the company said last week.

Total orders for the GE Healthcare unit increased 42 percent over the third quarter in 2003, including Amersham, the company said. The company did not specifically break out Amersham’s contribution, but said that excluding Amersham, the unit’s orders grew 15 percent to $2.3 billion, which would credit Amersham with $0.6 billion in orders, and growth of 27 percent.

Healthcare’s total revenues of $3.3 billion compared to $2.3 billion for the year-ago quarter. The unit had net revenue of $503 million for the quarter, compared to $383 million for the year-ago period.

Healthcare is the London-based business unit that combines Amersham, which was acquired in April in an $11.3 billion transaction, and the company’s legacy General Electric Medical Systems. The two entities operate as GE Bio-Sciences, and GE Healthcare Technologies, respectively, but are considered one unit.


Lynx Initiates MPSS Services for ATCC

Lynx Therapeutics signed a pact with the American Type Culture Collection to study gene expression in certified human embryonic stem cells using its Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing technology.

ATCC, which is a global, non-profit bioresource center, is attempting to identify universal sets of genes, the expression of which would indicate specific cell states.

Lynx will receive a payment for its services, but specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.


Gene Express Selects Wilson Sonsini as Corporate Law Firm

Privately held Gene Express has hired Wilson Son-sini Goodrich & Rosati as its corporate law firm. Gene Express said the law firm would review its technology patents and prepare an international patent strategy.

Gene Express’ lead product is its Start-PCR platform for standardized, quantitative measurement of nucleic acid copy number, enabling multi-gene measurement of transcript abundance, and/or genomic DNA copy number.


Partek Licenses Software to Carleton University

Partek announced last week that it has licensed its Partek Infer software for inferential statistics and Partek Discover software for exploratory analysis to Carleton University of Ontario, Canada.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Althea, Expression Analysis Team on Biomarker Discovery Service

Althea Technologies of San Diego and Expression Analysis of Durham, NC, will jointly offer a gene expression analysis service to discover biomarkers of disease or drug activity, the companies said today.

The service, called Signature Discovery, will allow researchers to go from global to focused gene expression analysis. It will rely on Expression’s experience with Affymetrix’s GeneChip technology and Althea’s Express Profiling technology.


TIGR Pulls the Plug on GSAC

This year’s Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference was TIGR’s last.

As attendance has fallen in recent years, TIGR “has decided not to move forward” with a 17th installment. “Alas, we have come to the end of an era,” Amy Rabin, TIGR’s conference manager, wrote in an e-mail last week to participating vendors.

Though the meeting has in the past been considered the seminal gathering for genome sequencing researchers and the tool vendors that supply their labs, GSAC has suffered dwindling attendances over the past couple of years.

Craig Venter, a TIGR co-founder and its current chairman, said that this year’s conference would enjoy 500 attendees. The number never reached that height: It was estimated that 460 people registered to attend the meeting — including the 29 exhibitors and the handful of staffers manning booths.

By comparison, 1,850 attendees made it to the 2002 meeting in Boston. GenomeWeb LLC, publisher of BioArray News, has been a commercial sponsor of the event since 2000.

“The program was phenomenal,” TIGR President Claire Fraser told GenomeWeb News during this year’s gathering, which took place in Washington, DC, Sept. 27-30. “Too bad the attendance is not what it used to be.”

GSAC has been faced with the challenge of changing its identity in recent years. How does an annual meeting built on gene sequencing — a relative novelty when the conference was founded 16 years ago — thrive in an environment where gene sequencing is commonplace, and new innovations demand center stage?

The kinds of presentations at this year’s meeting reflected this challenge. The brunt of the talks devoted to gene sequencing — which had enjoyed top billing at past GSACs — were relegated to the tail end of the conference. Instead, leading this year’s meeting were reports on environmental genomics, complete with an update by Venter on his nautical sojourn.

A TIGR official did not return multiple telephone calls seeking comment.


Emory, Georgia Tech get $10 million in NIH Roadmap Grants

Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology last week received two National Institutes of Health grants of $10 million to establish a multidisciplinary research program in cancer nanotechnology.

Shuming Nie, who holds a dual appointment as associate professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory Unversity and is director of cancer nanotechnology at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, will serve as principal investigator.

The two institutions earned a five-year, $7.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop nanoscale tools for linking molecular signatures to cancer behavior and clinical outcome. They also earned a four-year, $2.7 million grant to develop nanoscale probes for molecular and cellular imaging of cancer.

 

The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.