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GE Healthcare, Whatman, GeneGo, GlaxoSmithKline, Cell Signaling Technology, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Beckman Coulter

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GE Healthcare to Acquire Whatman for $713M
 
General Electric’s GE Healthcare unit has signed an agreement to acquire Whatman for 270 pence per share, giving the transaction a total value of £363 million ($713 million).
 
The acquisition of Whatman will provide GE Healthcare with a portfolio of filters and membranes for laboratory, research, life sciences, and medical technology applications.
 
“We believe that Whatman’s considerable expertise in filtration, [and] their strong and innovative product offerings, will be a great addition to our portfolio, particularly in the area of sample preparation,” Peter Ehrenheim, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's life sciences business, said during a conference call this week.
 
He noted that Whatman has new technologies for sample capture and storage, which he said “could be very useful as a component for the diagnostic industry.”
 
Ehrenheim also said that Whatman’s products are particularly complementary to GE Healthcare’s protein chromatography platform and cellular analysis technologies.
 
Whatman recently said that it would report 2007 revenues of roughly £116 million, flat with last year’s results. According to Ehrenheim, GE Healthcare’s life sciences business brings in around $1.3 billion in annual revenue. “For life sciences, this is a big deal,” he said.
 
Whatman will add around 1,100 people to GE Healthcare's total staff of roughly 46,000, of which the life sciences business employs approximately 3,800. The acquisition is subject to the approval of Whatman’s shareholders and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2008. The transaction has been recommended unanimously by the directors of Whatman, who have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the deal. Whatman’s largest shareholder, Hermes Focus Asset Management, which owns approximately 15 percent of Whatman’s outstanding shares, has also agreed to vote in favor of the transaction.
 

 
GSK Expands Licensing Agreement for GeneGo’s Informatics Tools
 
GeneGo said this week that GlaxoSmithKline has extended a licensing agreement for its systems biology software tools.
 
The expanded agreement provides GSK’s researchers in bioinformatics, R&D, and clinical studies with global access to GeneGo’s MetaCore, MapEditor, and MetaBase informatics tools.
 
GSK will use MetaCore, a collection of pathway maps and network models, as “a repository of all types of experimental data as well as resulting analyses,” GeneGo said.
 
GSK has been a GeneGo customer since 2005, when it signed an agreement to use the company’s MetaBase database of human biology and medicinal chemistry.
 
Financial terms of the expanded agreement were not provided.
 

 
Bristol-Myers to Use Cell Signaling Technology's PhosphoScan in Drug Study
 
Cell Signaling Technology this week said that Bristol-Myers Squibb will use its PhosphoScan technology in cell and tumor phospho-profiling of a small molecule kinase inhibitor.
 
The PhosphoScan process involves immunoaffinity purification and tandem mass spectrometry. It will be applied to in vivo phosphorylation profiling of kinase inhibitor response profiles in xenograft tumor models.
 
Danvers, Mass.-based CST said that the signatures generated with the Bristol-Myers compound will be analyzed within the context of its PhosphoSignature database, which covers hundreds of cell lines and human tumors.
 
The firms signed this agreement following an evaluation period for the technology, which ended in March 2007.
 
Additional terms of the alliance were not disclosed.
 

 
Beckman Coulter's Q4 Revenues Rise 10.8 Percent as R&D Charge Cuts Profit
 
Beckman Coulter this week reported a double-digit increase in revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31, while soaring R&D costs, affected by a charge related to the acquisition of NexGen Diagnostics, cut the firm’s profit 28 percent year over year.
 
The Fullerton, Calif.-based diagnostics and life science products firm brought in fourth-quarter revenue of $789 million, up from $712 million in the fourth quarter of 2006. Strong revenues for Beckman’s clinical diagnostics segment were offset by weaker demand from life science customers, the firm said.
 
Total revenue from Beckman’s clinical diagnostics products increased 12.8 percent over the comparable quarter a year ago. However, the firm said that markets for its life science products “continued to be soft in most geographies.” It said sales of life science products grew 3.7 percent year over year, but on a constant currency basis, life science product sales actually declined .7 percent.
 
Sales of life science products in the US were particularly lower, dropping 10.6 percent year over year, the firm said. Life science product sales to international markets were up 6.7 percent for the quarter.
 
Asked during a conference call this week if the firm is considering some divestitures for the life sciences business, Scott Garrett, Beckman Coulter president and CEO, who also will become chairman on Apr. 24, suggested that was not the case. “We’re always looking for alternatives, [but] we like our life science product portfolio,” he said. “It’s very profitable. We’ve got a lot of brand loyalty and good customer appreciation for those products, but they aren’t growing as fast as diagnostics.
 
“As we look to the future we have such compelling opportunities for investment, such as molecular [diagnostics] and applying new technology to immunoassays, that the life science products are not competing well for R&D dollars,” he said. “We’re always open to the possibility of a divestiture, but our history and our inclination is that these products are more valuable to us than they probably are to anybody else, so we expect to keep them for the long term.”
 
Beckman posted a profit of $44.8 million, or $.69 per share, down from $62.3 million, or $.97 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2006.
 
The firm’s R&D costs climbed 69.3 percent to $97.5 million from $57.6 million. Included in that increase were charges related to supply chain restructuring and the write-off of roughly $36 million in in-process R&D related to its acquisition in December of NexGen Diagnostics.
 
Beckman’s SG&A costs rose 11.9 percent year over year to $193.2 million from $172.6 million.
 
For full-year 2007, Beckman reported revenues of $2.76 billion, a 9.2 percent increase over revenues of $2.53 billion for 2006. Its profit for the year rose 13.1 percent to $211.3 million, or $3.30 per share, from $186.9 million, or $2.92 per share, for 2006.
 
Clinical diagnostics sales grew 11.9 percent for the full year, while life science products sales dropped 2 percent.
 
Beckman’s 2007 R&D costs were $274 million, up 3.4 percent from $264.9 million in 2006. SG&A expenses increased 6.3 percent to $731.1 million from $687.6 million.
 
The firm finished the year with $83 million in cash and cash equivalents.
 
For 2008, Beckman expects revenue growth to be between 7 percent and 9 percent.
 
The firm’s goal for the clinical diagnostics business is to continue to exceed 10 percent revenue growth in 2008, according to Garrett. He added that he expects life science revenues to be about flat with 2007.
 
"In the first quarter, we expect to commercialize our next chemistry/immunoassay work cell, the UniCel DxC 880i, the first of four new work cells coming in 2008,” said Garrett in a statement. “The new UniCel DxH, our next generation hematology system, should be introduced at the end of 2008, and we continue to make solid progress with the development of our DxN 'sample-to-result' instrument for molecular diagnostics.”
 
Beckman officials said last month at the firm’s annual business review meeting in New York that the initial menu for the DxN will include sexually transmitted disease tests; nosocomial infection tests, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; a compromised immunity test, such as HIV viral load and cytomegalovirus; and urgent microbiology for spinal fluid analysis.
 
“We may have more,” Garrett said at that meeting. “We won’t have less. If we have more, they’ll probably come from additional infectious disease and human genomics categories, including oncology,” he added.

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