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ABI, VisiGen, Orchid Cellmark, Genomas, BG Medicine, FDA, Affymetrix, CureSearch, PD, Illumina, CombiMatrix, Icoria


ABI, Looking for Place at the New-Sequencing Table, Will Buy Stake in VisiGen

Applied Biosystems, eager to nab a seat at the next-generation sequencing table, will make an undisclosed equity investment in VisiGen Biotechnologies and begin collaborating with the firm, the companies said this week.

The investment and collaboration are subject to certain conditions, including one that specifies VisiGen must receive an additional investment from SeqWright, an existing shareholder.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

In early October, after months of industry speculation, ABI disclosed it has been developing its own next-generation sequencing instruments and said today it will still work towards this goal.

"Applied Biosystems plans to complement its internal investments in new and existing sequencing technologies with promising next generation approaches, such as VisiGen's," Catherine Burzik, president of ABI, said in a statement.

VisiGen, based in Houston, is developing a real-time sequencing system in which polymerase and nucleotides act together as direct molecular sensors for DNA base identification.

Los Angeles Police Department to Use Orchid Cellmark Technology for Forensic DNA Analyses

The Los Angeles Police Department has awarded Orchid Cellmark an exclusive contract to use DNA profiling to solve burglaries, the company said this week.

Orchid Cellmark will conduct forensic DNA analyses of evidence from burglaries and other property crimes scenes using its Biotracks program. The resulting DNA profiles will be compared against criminal DNA databases to identify potential suspects.

The program is being funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice. Further details were not disclosed.

The company has conducted similar work for the LAPD and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for 15 years. Orchid has also worked with Illinois law enforcement and with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Connecticut Reference Lab to Sell Genomas' Dx System for Drug Metabolism

Gulaberto Ruaño's new company, Genomas, launched its HILOmet PhysioType System and announced a distribution agreement with Newington, Conn.-based Clinical Laboratory Partners, the company said this week.

Similar to Roche Diagnostic's AmpliChip CYP450 test, based on Affymetrix's Gene Chip technology that was approved late last year, the HILOmet System uses DNA-based typing of 3 cytochrome p450 genes, CYP 2C9, 2C19, and 2D6 to determine individual rates of drug metabolism.

The company's Laboratory of Personalized Health will perform the HILOmet tests.

"Blood samples will be drawn by our phlebotomists at our many facilities throughout Connecticut and sent to the LPH," George M. Kyriacou, president of Clinical Laboratory Partners, said in a statement. LPH and CLP will provide DNA typing reports to the physicians.

Ruaño, a former vice chairman and chief scientific officer of Genaissance, launched Genomas in 2003 to study individual genetic responses to stress, exercise, climate, and disease.

BG Medicine, FDA Partner on Liver Toxicity Biomarker Study

BG Medicine said this week that it has submitted a cooperative research and development agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research for a project to discover biomarkers of human hepatotoxicity.

BG Medicine said that it has jointly designed the project, called the Liver Toxicology Biomarker Study, with the FDA "with input from a number of pharmaceutical companies." The company said that the study will be funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers, who will receive "a paid-up perpetual license to any biomarkers discovered and access to all project data."

The LTBS will be conducted at the FDA's NCTR laboratory in Jefferson, Ark., and at BG Medicine in Waltham, Mass., where the organizations will rely on a range of technologies, including functional genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and computational analysis.

BG Medicine said it expects the project to result in improved tests for liver toxicity, which is the most common biological reason for drug failure in the development of new drugs. Current toxicity testing methods "often fail to identify human liver toxicity issues," the company said. "Consequently, liver toxicity is often detected for the first time when drugs are in phase 2 of clinical testing after tens of millions of dollars or more have been spent on a drug."

Affymetrix, CureSearch Children's Oncology Group to Research Gene-Expression Signatures

Affymetrix and CureSearch Children's Oncology Group will jointly research gene-expression signatures for childhood cancers, Affymetrix said this week.

Affymetrix will use its GeneChip microarray technology for this effort. COG has an existing databank of more than 20,000 tumor samples.

COG scientists will use Affymetrix microarrays to find similarly expressed genes amongst a group of children sharing the same disease. The identified genetic fingerprint will allow physicians to test other patients for common pediatric cancers, including leukemia and sarcoma.

Additional details were not disclosed.

PD to Use Illumina's BeadStation, Arrays to Study Genetic Variation

PharmacoDesign will use Illumina's BeadStation system and whole-genome genotyping arrays and reagents to study genetic variations in various Korean populations, Illumina said this week.

Under a worldwide royalty-bearing exclusive license, Illumina will incorporate biomarkers discovered by PharmacoDesign into proprietary SNP panels.

PharmacoDesign will utilize Illumina's Sentrix Human-1 BeadChip, containing over 100,000 SNP markers, and its Infinium assay for this project.

PharmacoDesign studies diseases that include obesity, cancer, and allergy-induced reactions such as atopy. The company works with large Korean hospitals to prescribe individualized treatments.

CombiMatrix Reports 94-Percent Jump in Q3 Revenue, Though Losses Jump 10 Percent

CombiMatrix last week reported a 94-percent increase in third-quarter revenues atop a jump in R&D spending and widened net losses.

Total receipts for the period ended Sept. 30 increased to $1.5 million from $753,000 year over year, the Acacia unit reported. The brunt of the growth came from product sales and services, which increased to $490,000 in the third quarter 2005 from $68,000 in the prior year. Revenue from government contracts increased to $973,000 from $685,000.

R&D costs increased 34 percent to $1.5 million from $1.1 million in the year-ago period.

Net losses in the third quarter widened almost 10 percent to $3.9 million from $3.5 million, CombiMatrix said.

The unit had around $24.7 million in cash and short-term investments as of Sept. 30.

Icoria Wins $800K SBIR Contract to Study Gene Expression of Alcohol-Related Diseases

Icoria has received a Small Business Innovation Research contract worth around $800,000 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The Phase II contract will help pay for Icoria's metabolomics and gene expression-analysis research of alcohol-related diseases, including liver and brain injury, according to the company. The study is called "Metabolomics: Alcohol Induced Toxicity."

The contract is the second Phase II SBIR contract Icoria has received. The company received a $1.2 million contract this summer. "Together, the two Phase II SBIR contracts help to support our biomarker discovery efforts on a broad set of liver pathologies that span a variety of mechanisms," Thomas Colatsky, Icoria's CSO, said in a statement today.

"By using metabolomics and gene expression to analyze different forms of liver toxicity, we hope to identify new biomarkers for liver disease that should have utility in the development of highly-informative, minimally invasive diagnostics covering acute as well as more chronic liver-related diseases, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease."


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