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Short Reads: Mar 31, 2009


Helicos' Q4 Grant Revenues Double; Expects Instrument Revenue in '09

Helicos BioSciences' fourth-quarter grant revenues increased to $206,000 from $117,000 year over year, the firm reported in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

The firm also reported its first-ever product revenue, totaling $36,000 for the three-month period ended Dec. 31, 2008. The company said in the filing that it expects to "recognize revenue from one of our initial 2008 instrument shipments in 2009."

Helicos, which makes the single-molecule sequencing Helicos Genetic Analysis Platform, shipped two of its systems in 2008, one to Stanford University, the other to Expression Analysis. Earlier this year, Expression Analysis returned its sequencer to the company (see In Sequence, 2/3/2009).

"Future revenues from sales of our instruments, proprietary reagents, and disposable supplies will depend on individual customer agreements, timing of the installation and turnover to customer, customers' use of the system, and our ability to maintain our proprietary position on the reagents and disposable supplies," Helicos said in the filing.

Helicos posted a net loss of $10.5 million, or $.42 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to a net loss of $10.4 million, or $.50 per share, for the comparable period of 2007. The firm's R&D spending dropped 9 percent to $6.2 million from $6.8 million, while its SG&A spending declined 10 percent year over year.

Helicos incurred restructuring charges of $433,000 during the quarter to cover employee severance and termination costs related to lay-offs. The firm, which said in early December that it would cut its staff by 30 percent, said it expects to incur additional related charges in the first quarter of 2009.

For full-year 2008, Helicos brought in total revenues of $808,000 versus $582,000 the year before. Its net loss increased 24 percent to $45.7 million, or $2.10 per share, from $36.8 million, or $4.23 per share.

The firm's full-year R&D expenses were nearly flat year over year at $24.6 million compared to $24.8 million in 2007, while SG&A spending rose 41 percent to $20.1 million from $14.3 million.

Helicos finished the year with $19.8 million in cash. A large portion of that came from a private placement of its stock in December, which brought in around $17.8 million in net proceeds.

The firm said in the filing that its cash on hand and expected interest on invested cash balances "will be sufficient to fund our operations into the first quarter of 2010."

Agencourt Adds Illumina GAII to Sequencing Services

Agencourt Bioscience, a Beckman Coulter company, said this week that it has purchased an Illumina Genome Analyzer II for use in its genomic services.

Agencourt will use the GAII along with its existing Roche/454 GS FLX and Applied Biosystems SOLiD instruments.

The company said that it now supports Sanger, second-generation, and hybrid sequencing projects, and that it can address "a range of sample and project types for both pharmaceutical and academic researchers."

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RainDance Ships First Sequence Sample-Prep System to OICR

RainDance Technologies said this week that it has shipped its first RDT 1000 and Sequence Enrichment Solution.

The Lexington, Mass.-based firm said that it shipped the RDT 1000, consumables kits, and custom PCR prime libraries to the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which will use the products to help it discover and validate DNA sequence variants associated with cancers.

The RDT 1000 and Sequence Enrichment Solution are based on RainDance's RainStorm microdroplet-based technology platform. The RDT 1000 generates picoliter-volume PCR reactions at the rate of 10 million discrete reactions per hour, the company said, while the Sequence Enrichment Solution uses a library of PCR primers in droplets to amplify hundreds to thousands of genomic loci in a single tube.

VWR Extends Distribution Deal for ZyGem DNA-Extraction Kits

VWR International has extended a non-exclusive distribution agreement for ZyGem's DNA-extraction kits, the companies said last week.

VWR has been distributing ZyGem's kits in North and South America since November 2008. Under the terms of the new pact, VWR will have the right to distribute the DNA extraction products for life-science research, forensic, agriculture, and animal health applications throughout Europe.

ZyGem's preGem kits use a thermophilic enzyme to extract DNA from samples using a single closed-tube system. The firm said that the kits enable high-throughput extraction of 384 samples in less than 30 minutes.

Australian Gov't Awards U of Queensland $19.3M for Cancer Genome-Sequencing Program

The Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council has pledged A$27.5 million (US$19.3 million) to the University of Queensland's cancer genome-sequencing program.

The grant — the largest awarded by the NHMRC to date — will help support pancreatic and ovarian cancer studies taking place at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Applied Biosystems, a division of Life Technologies; Silicon Graphics; the Cancer Council New South Wales; and the university are also contributing to the five-year project, which is expected to cost more than A$40 million.

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and the Australian Genome Research Facility are partnering with IMB on the project. The institute also is collaborating with researchers from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the US Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the University of California at San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins University.

In a statement, IMB Director Brandon Wainwright said that the team intends to look for genetic changes in 500 pancreatic and ovarian tumors and compare them with normal tissue.

The UQ cancer-sequencing program aims to increase researchers' understanding of the two cancers, identify patterns that can improve prognosis and treatment strategies, and uncover targets for new therapies.

Sean Grimmond, a genomics researcher at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, is directing the project. Grimmond also is heading the Australian arm of the International Cancer Genome Consortium project, an effort to sequence 50 different types of tumors in 25,000 individuals from around the world.

U of Michigan Installs Genomatix Sequence-Analysis Software

Genomatix Software said last week that the Center for Translational Pathology at the University of Michigan has installed a Genomatix Mining Station and a Genomatix Genome Analyzer.

The platforms are a combination of high-performance hardware, database, and software technology for the analyzing second-generation sequencing data.

The Mining Station is based on a genomic pattern-recognition paradigm, or GenomeThesaurus, that is used to map sequences "of any length (starting from 8bp) with no practical limits on the number of point mutations and/or insertions and deletions that can be taken into account during the mapping process," according to the company.

The Genome Analyzer includes additional software tools and databases for analyzing data from the Mining Station.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.