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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Merck, Qiagen, Cell Signaling Technology, AstraZeneca, BG Medicine, Philips, Ontario Genomics Institute, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation

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Merck Taps Dana-Farber for Genomic Analysis of Cancer Therapeutics
 
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will use cross-species genomic analysis and validation testing in a cancer drug collaboration with Merck, the Institute said this week.
 
Under the agreement, Merck will provide the Center for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber with up-front and research support funding and with milestone and royalty payments if a drug is approved for marketing. CACS will retain the right to develop its antibodies independently from the collaboration with Merck.
 
The CACS will work with Merck to develop assays for lead compound discovery, and then test the drugs in its model systems that “closely replicate human disease,” CACS said.
 
CACS faculty will work with Merck to further evaluate tumor pathobiology and clinical outcomes to better pinpoint the tumor types that are most susceptible to drug candidates.
 
Further terms of the alliance were not disclosed.
 

 
Acquisitions Boost Qiagen's Q4 Revenues but Hurt Profits
 
Qiagen this week reported revenues of $210.2 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2007, a 67 percent increase over revenues of $125.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2006.
 
Qiagen’s top-line growth was aided by its $1.6 billion acquisition of Digene at the end of July. However, that acquisition, along with its $34 million purchase of eGene earlier in 2007, cut the firm’s profit for both the fourth quarter and the full year.
 
Qiagen posted a profit of $15 million, or $.07 per share, compared with a profit of $19.4 million, or $.13 per share, in Q4 2006. While the firm took charges related to acquisitions in both years, the charges in the fourth quarter of 2007 were much larger — $11.5 million versus roughly $3 million in the comparable period a year ago.
 
Qiagen’s R&D costs more than doubled year over year to $22.8 million from $11 million, while its SG&A expenses climbed 80 percent to $79.4 million from $44.1 million.
 
For full-year 2007, Qiagen had revenues of $649.8 million, a 40 percent increase over revenues of $465.8 million in 2006. While Qiagen did not break out Digene’s contribution to revenues for the year, CEO Peer Schatz said in a statement that organic revenues were 12 percent for the year, while acquisitions added 22 percent of the increase.
 
The firm’s net income dropped 29 percent to $50.1 million, or $.28 per share, from $70.5 million, or $.46 per share. For full-year 2007, Qiagen took acquisition- and integration-related charges of $48.8 million compared to similar charges of around $12.3 million in 2006. Excluding the charges, Qiagen’s EPS for the year would have been $.63 versus $.56 in 2006.
 
Qiagen’s R&D expenses rose 56 percent to $64.9 million from $41.6 million in 2006, while SG&A costs increased 43.8 percent to $236.6 million from $164.5 million.
 
Schatz noted that the firm intends to further expand its sample and assay technology portfolio in the applied testing and molecular diagnostics markets. “We are significantly investing in clinical trials for a number of molecular diagnostic products with the goal of adding more regulated products to our portfolio,'' he said.
 
Qiagen recently introduced its QIAsymphonySP, a modular platform that integrates entire workflows in molecular processing. The platform, which will start shipping to customers during the second quarter, marks a major expansion of the firm's instrumentation offerings.
 
“It is a very important flagship product for our medium throughput strategy,” Schatz said during a conference call earlier this week. He said the QIAsymphony is the largest development program ever undertaken by Qiagen.
 
Schatz also noted that an add-on module would launch in about a year, but the firm is not disclosing the menu for that module yet. However, Schatz said that Qiagen has 120 PCR-based assays on the market already, and “this is most likely going to be one of the components of the platform.” 
 
In addition, he said that human papillomavirus testing is in the “sweet spot” for the QIAsymphony. The firm currently sells the HPV molecular diagnostic assay it acquired along with Digene and is in the process of developing next-generation versions of that test, as well as a genotyping test for HPV.
 
Qiagen finished the year with $347.3 million in cash and cash equivalents.
 
The firm expects 2008 revenue growth of between $875 million and $905 million.
 

 
CST, AstraZeneca Extend Phosphorylation-based Biomarker Hunt
 
Cell Signaling Technology said this week it has agreed to extend an agreement with AstraZeneca, under which the drugmaker will continue to use its technology to identify biomarkers for targeted compounds.
 
Cell Signaling Technology said it will continue using its PhosphoScan technology to provide AstraZeneca with phosphorylation profiles of target kinases for an antibody development program that the companies are performing together under a parallel agreement.
 
Cell Signaling Technology Director of Business Development Christopher Bunker said the Danville, Mass.-based company will translate information it finds using the PhosphoScan into biomarker assays for AstraZeneca.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
 

 
BG Medicine to Collaborate with Danish Researchers on Early Heart Attack Biomarkers
 
Molecular diagnostics company BG Medicine will collaborate with researchers in Denmark and use data from various cohort studies conducted in Copenhagen in its High Risk Plaque Initiative, the company said this week.
 
The HRP is a research initiative begun by BG Medicine, Merck, AstraZeneca, and Philips that aims to develop diagnostic biomarkers that can predict heart attacks caused by myocardial infarction or by the rupture of atherosclerotic plaque as early as four years before they occur.
 
Beginning in March, the multiple-phase research program will use BG Medicine’s proteomic and metabolomics discovery capabilities on samples from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, the Copenhagen General Population Study, and other studies, the company said.
"This research is an excellent example of how plasma samples from large-scale epidemiological studies can be used for the discovery and development of novel in vitro diagnostics to address a significant unmet medical need,” said Borge Nordestgaard, who is chairman of the CGPS and a principal investigator on the collaboration with BG.
 
BG Medicine CEO Pieter Muntendam characterized the collaboration as a “complement to the other atherosclerosis-related research projects that we are conducting as part of the broader, collaborative HRP Initiative."
 

 
Ontario Institute Launches Genomics Sector Innovation Network
 
The non-profit Ontario Genomics Institute and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation have launched a new initiative called the Genomics Sector Innovation Network that aims to link various stakeholders in Ontario's genomics sector.
 
The network is an online portal that will contain searchable information about large-scale genomic and proteomic projects as well as participating researchers and institutions. It is intended to be a knowledge and communication base for those in working in genomics on the academic research, industry, and investment fronts in Ontario and the rest of Canada, OGI said this week.
 
The site also includes resources for those interested in genomics-related employment opportunities, technology transfer, and news.
 
“Ontario is a global leader in genomics and proteomics research and a hotbed of research and commercialization activities thanks to our thriving life sciences community,” John Wilkinson, Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, said in a statement. “Investing in world-class research and innovation is part of our government’s plan to improve our quality of life, boost Ontario’s global economic competitiveness, and spark the next generation of highly skilled, good-paying jobs for Ontario families.”
 
The Genomics Sector Innovation Network portal is available here.

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