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Invitrogen Shutters QDC s Hayward Facility; Lays Off Substantial Number of Workers


Invitrogen has closed the Hayward, Calif.-based headquarters of recently acquired Quantum Dot Corporation and will lay off and possibly relocate the majority of the employees there, the company said last week in a conference call regarding its third-quarter earnings.

In response to a question by an investor regarding the status of the Quantum Dot integration, Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier said that "we are closing down the Hayward facility where they were located. We've had to do a substantial termination of employees and potential relocation of people to Eugene, Oregon, to the Molecular Probes campus."

Invitrogen didn't provide any further details about the lay-offs during the call. However, an Invitrogen representative later told CBA News that "it's in the process of some people being transferred from the site in Hayward, to Eugene, both people and equipment, and that process is supposed to be completed by the end of the year.

"I think a lot of [this] is still kind of in process," the representative added. "The integration team is looking at what they can do that we can't do. It's just a matter of identifying best practices and going from there."

As of 2003, Quantum Dot had 41 employees, according to a Yahoo Finance profile of the company. A 2005 California Healthcare Institute profile of Quantum Dot said that the company employs 50 workers. The Invitrogen representative estimated that the company employed approximately 55 workers. It was unclear as of press time exactly how many employees will be relocated to Invitrogen or how many have been terminated.

Invitrogen announced it would be acquiring Quantum Dot earlier this month, although the company hasn't officially closed the acquisition.

Bringing Quantum Dot in to the fold gives Invitrogen access to the company's QDot semiconductor nanocrystal technology, which the company invented and holds several patents on related to biological applications.

QDots are believed to offer several advantages over traditional fluorescent dyes, most importantly brighter and narrower emission spectra, which allows for highly multiplexed assays without emission overlap and generally much simpler and inexpensive imaging equipment. However, the dots also have several disadvantages — in particular their large sizes — which makes them difficult to adapt to live-cell applications.

Quantum Dot was attempting to market the technology for a wide range of biological applications, such as in vitro diagnostics, fixed-cell and live-cell drug screening, and gene expression. The latter was through a collaboration with Japanese firm Matsushita Electronics, known in the US as Panasonic.

Last year, Quantum Dot representatives said that the two companies were putting the final touches on an instrument called the Mosaic Optical Scanner, which would be used with the QDots to conduct highly multiplexed gene-expression studies in fixed cells without the need for PCR (see CBA News, 10/5/2004).

The platform was set to launch in Q1 of 2005, Quantum Dot said at the time; however, the platform is not yet available. A Quantum Dot representative last year said that there were beta-testers of the instrument at "several pharmaceutical companies and core labs," although he declined to disclose them.

In addition, the company was working on a variety of projects with several academic and industry collaborators. These include academic collaborators such as Carnegie Mellon's Alan Waggoner and Cornell University's Watt Webb, to develop live-animal imaging applications using the QDots; Sandy Rosenthal at Venderbilt University, to investigate QDots for neutological studies; and QD scientific founder Moungi Bawendi at MIT, to develop infrared versions of QDots.

Ongoing industry collaborators include Ventana Medical Systems, which is developing diagnostic tests for infectious disease and cancer using QDots; and Genentech, for monoclonal antibody-related drug development.

It was unclear as of press time whether Invitrogen will retain core employees from each of Quantum Dots' divisions to carry on these collaborations, or whether it will take over much of the work with its own scientific, sales, service, and marketing force.

— Ben Butkus ([email protected])

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