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Helicos Seeks Bankruptcy Court Approval of Licensing Deals with Illumina, Life Tech, and Fluidigm

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Defunct next-generation sequencing technology firm Helicos BioSciences has asked a bankruptcy court to approve the licensing of intellectual property to Illumina, Life Technologies, and Fluidigm.

If approved, the transactions would provide $3.55 million to Helicos, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November. The company also asks the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts Eastern Division to approve three deals Helicos has reached with entities that own IP that it seeks to sub-license to Illumina and Fluidigm.

In a motion filed with the court a week ago, Helicos said that it has a deal in place with Fluidigm to sublicense certain IP licensed by Helicos. The deal, reached late last month, also would also assign IP owned by Helicos to Fluidigm, who would pay Helicos a one-time payment of $1 million as part of the deal.

Helicos also said that it reached an agreement with Illumina in December to license IP owned by Helicos and sublicense other IP. Illumina would pay Helicos $1.8 million if the deal is approved by the court.

Lastly, in a deal reached in December, Life Tech has agreed to pay Helicos $750,000 for a non-exclusive license to certain patents owned by Helicos.

The court has scheduled a hearing on May 29 to consider Helicos' motion.

Because its deals with Illumina and Fluidigm include IP owned by other entities, Helicos has had to negotiate separate deals with those owners. Helicos also needs the bankruptcy court to approve the deals with IP owners.

Helicos said that it has reached settlements with two entities, allowing it to sublicense their IP — Arizona Technology Enterprises, or AzTE, and the California Institute of Technology.

Its licensing deal with AzTE covers patents related to nucleic acid sequencing-by-synthesis. Helicos would pay AzTE $100,000 in connection with their settlement.

Its license with Caltech covers patents for sequencing technologies. No settlement payment was necessary with Caltech, Helicos said in its court document.

It said that it and Roche also agreed to a settlement in which Helicos would pay Roche $50,000 in return for permission to sublicense Roche's IP. Helicos licenses patents from Roche for sequencing methods.

Helicos said, however, that "[a]lthough oral agreement was reached with Roche on foregoing terms, delays in documenting the agreement have called into question whether Roche remains willing to proceed," and in a motion filed this week, Helicos asks the court to allow it to sublicense Roche's IP in the event that Roche does not execute the settlement deal with Helicos.

Helicos also asks the court to allow it to lower the payment it would give to Roche to a $10,000 royalty, instead of the $50,000 originally negotiated. Helicos said that the Roche license makes up only "a minor, nominal" part of Helicos' overall patent portfolio, and added that in negotiating its deals with Fluidigm, Illumina, and Life Tech it "received not one offer for a sublicense of the Roche license, standing alone. The sublicenses of the Roche license … appear to [Helicos] to be essentially a throw-in."

The May 29 hearing will also consider this motion.

In March, Helicos sold certain assets and licensed IP to a former employee, who planned to form a new company using Helicos' technology.