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Decode, Bruker BioSciences, Illumina, Affymetrix, Whatman, Starr Foundation, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Orchid Cellmark

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Decode Sues Five Former Employees for Allegedly Stealing Trade Secrets
 
Decode Genetics has sued five former employees for allegedly sharing company trade secrets and intellectual property and for breaking non-compete and non-solicitation provisions, the company said this week.
 
Decode said the five employees, including former vice president of business development Hakon Hakonarson, were recruited by the Center for Applied Genomics, a business unit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is also named in the suit. Four of the former employees are currently employed by CAG.
 
The suit, filed in the US District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that the former employees, “while still Decode employees and with the knowledge of senior CHOP staff, copied or sent directly to CHOP Decode proprietary methods, tools, business plans, and research results owned by the company,” Decode said in a statement.
 
Decode also said that evidence gathered from its computer systems indicate that the defendants' goal was to "further CAG’s commercial mission. This was to generate significant revenue for CHOP by patenting research results and licensing these patents to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies,” Decode said.
 
Decode is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent CAG from using or benefiting from Decode’s systems or information, the company said. A hearing on this motion was scheduled to begin today at 10 AM Eastern time.
 
In a statement released one day later CHOP said the suit is “without merit.” The hospital also said it “defends physicians to protect advanced research in childhood diseases.”
 
“It would be a blow to the enormous promise of [the hospital's] research if a for-profit company is permitted to interfere with the potential advancement of healthcare for children,” CHOP President and CEO Steven Altschuler said in a statement.
 

 
Pharma Spending Growth Rate May Never Reach 'Boom' of '00-'01, Bruker CEO Says
 
The rate of growth at which drug makers invest in life science tools and technologies may never reach the levels seen during the 2000 or 2001 “boom,” according to Bruker BioSciences CEO Frank Laukien.
 
“It’s certainly better than it has been [recently] but may never again be at the 2000-2001 levels,” Laukien said during a break-out session following his presentation at the UBS Life Sciences Conference in New York this week.
 
Laukien said pharma spending “continues to be pretty selective and judicious” across all life science tool segments. “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect [the spending growth] to return to the boom levels of 2000,” he said.
 
Laukien’s comments were an expansion of a pronouncement he made last month when he said that "pharma [spending] in the first half of the year … has been healthier than a year ago. Clearly, pharma and biotech are still restrained in their spending, but it is healthier in general."
 
During his UBS presentation he said that pharma spending “for all of our businesses has gone up in the last few quarters.”
 

 
Illumina to Grow Sales Staff by At Least Half in '06; Affy Suit Could Go to Court in Early March
 
Illumina’s global sales staff will increase by at least half this year as the company sets to roll out its BeadXpress molecular diagnostic platform, a company official said this week.
 
CEO Jay Flatley, speaking to investors at the UBS Global Life Sciences Conference in New York this week, said Illumina’s sales staff will grow by between 50 percent and 60 percent this year over last.
 
Answering a question during a break-out session following his presentation, Flatley also said that Affymetrix’s patent-infringement suit against Illumina will likely begin during the second week of March 2007, though he said that has not been confirmed yet.
 
Affymetrix sued Illumina in July 2004 for allegedly infringing six patents in the DNA microarray field and related technology. Affy dropped one of the patents from the suit in March. A Markman hearing in the case was held in April, according to GenomeWeb News sister publication BioArray News.
 
At the conference, Flatley reiterated that the company plans to launch the BeadXpress technology by the end of the year. He said the platform, which will be able to run 100 samples per hour, will have applications in genotyping, gene expression research, and protein-binding studies. Flatley said these applications are still in development.
 
Flatley said the system will begin field testing “soon” and that the company will begin selling it in 2007 to the research market. In May Flatley said the goal is to get the system cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration roughly by the end of 2006, which will enable Illumina to begin selling it to CLIA labs.
 
He had also said the company may build and combine its own sales staff to sell diagnostic products while partnering with others. "It's likely to be a hybrid model," he said. "We're in the process of making some final evaluations."
 

 
Whatman's Combichip Wins CE Mark Around Nine Months Later Than Expected
 
Whatman this week said that its Combichip multiplex protein biochip has received CE registration as an in vitro diagnostic and will be available to reference labs as a CE-marked IVD kit.
 
The product, indicated for autoimmune diseases, won the agency’s approval around three months later than its most recent prediction, and around eight months later than it had originally expected it to become approved.
 
Whatman in August 2005 said it would launch the Combichip as an IVD by the end of that year. But in January officials pushed back that date to the first quarter of 2006.
 
In May Whatman filed the Combichip with European regulators and said at the time that it expected to win the CE Mark as early as June.
 
The Combichip requires a single, low-volume serum sample to generate results for 14 different analytes. It also reduces analysis time to two or three hours, Whatman said.
 
The assay system, developed in partnership with Privates Institut fur Immunologie und Molekulargenetik, currently identifies antibodies associated with approximately 10 different autoimmune diseases, including systemic and neonatal lupus and systemic sclerosis.
 

 
Starr Foundation Earmarks $100M for Cancer Consortium
 
The Starr Foundation said last week that it has set aside $100 million to create a consortium of five international research institutions with the goal of advancing the fight against cancer.
The consortium — called the Starr Cancer Consortium — includes the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College.
 
According to the Starr Foundation, the institutions will collaborate on “research aimed at understanding cancer at its most fundamental levels and at developing new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the many forms of the disease.”
 
Key areas of focus for the consortium members include the creation or accelerated development of technology platforms to unravel the genetic and molecular basis of cancers; the application of these technologies in joint projects aimed at developing new and highly effective approaches to diagnosis and treatment; and support for basic biological research to provide insights into the fundamental molecular and cellular processes underlying cancer.
 

 
Affymetrix Pens Gene-Expression Alliance With Aussie Cancer Center
 
Affymetrix today this week that that it has penned a five-year gene-expression collaboration with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Australia.
 
Terms of the agreement call for Peter Mac researchers to use Affymetrix GeneChip technology for translational research projects. The first studies will cover ovarian cancer and carcinoma of unknown primaries.
 
Millennium Science will supply Peter Mac with Affy’s technology and provide technical support.
 
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
 

 
Orchid Cellmark Wins DNA Services Contracts from UK Police
 
Orchid Cellmark's UK division won DNA contracts estimated to be worth more than $3.5 million a year with the Kent and Sussex Police forces and the City of London Police force, Orchid Cellmark said this week.
 
These are the first contracts since the Orchid Cellmark decided to offer forensic services directly to UK police forces, the company said.
 
The Kent and Sussex Police awarded a three-year exclusive contract to provide DNA testing for their PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) and Crime Scene Stain profiling services. The contract has an option to extend for additional two years.
 
The company will provide DNA testing services for PACE mouth swab samples for the City of London Police. This contract is for five years.
 
Additional details were not disclosed.

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