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Promega Plans to Appeal Dismissal Of $1B Suit against Roche, Applera

Promega will appeal the dismissal of a $1 billion lawsuit it filed on behalf of the US Government against Hoffman-La Roche and Applera, the company said last week.

A US Federal Court in Virginia dismissed the suit June 30. Promega said it will appeal the case to the US Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In the original claim, Promega, based in Madison, Wis., alleged that Roche “and its co-conspirators” overcharged the US Government and government agencies by charging royalty payments for Taq enzymes, and in doing so, diverted millions in US tax dollars that could otherwise have been used for research programs. [Read this article by GenomeWeb News, PGx Reporter’s sister publication]

Promega claimed in a separate suit that the patents for these enzymes were obtained by inequitable conduct by Roche. The claim also accused the Swiss drug and diagnostic company of “anticompetitive tying of sales of Taq to other products; deceptive licensing practices; and predatory threats of litigation.”

The suit that was dismissed is based on the False Claims Act, also known as the Informer’s Act or the Qui Tam Statute, which allows a private person to sue a person or company that knowingly submits false bills to the federal government. It is designed to encourage whistleblowers to come forward in order to prevent this type of fraud.

Roche and Promega have been engaged in patent litigation since 1992.

Lanny Davis, outside counsel for Roche, has previously told GenomeWeb News that this False Claims Act suit by Promega was an attempt to get Roche to settle the underlying patent-related cases.


Illumina Pays Applera $8.5M to Settle Suits

Illumina will pay Applera $8.5 million to settle competing lawsuits relating to a 1999 joint development agreement between it and Applied Biosystems.

The payment comes out of $10 million in R&D funding that Applera provided to Illumina in November 1999 as part of the collaboration, Illumina said. This payment was repayable to Applera from the profits of any products that emerged from the collaboration, and has been recorded as a liability on Illumina’s balance sheet, according to Illumina. As a result of the settlement, Illumina said it will remove this item from its balance sheet and record a one-time gain of $1.5 million.

In the original suit, filed in December 2002, Illumina claimed that ABI breached the 1999 plan to commercialize a high-throughput genotyping system. At about the same time, ABI sued Illumina in Federal court for infringing patents related to the oligo ligation assay that would have been part of this system.

Under the settlement, the companies will exchange royalty-free cross licenses to unspecified intellectual property rights for their technologies.


Hunkapiller Retires from ABI; Burzik Takes Helm

Michael Hunkapiller, senior vice president and president of Applied Biosystems, has retired.

He will be replaced by Catherine Burzik, former executive vice president and COO of ABI.

An Applera spokesman told GenomeWeb News that Hunkapiller will retire for personal reasons, and added that “the exact timing of Mike’s decision to retire was his.”

The spokesman said that Applera’s board was first made aware of Hunkapiller’s decision before a regularly scheduled board meeting held late last week.

Hunkapiller was not available for comment.

Burzik joined ABI in September 2003 from Johnson & Johnson, where she was president of the company’s Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business. The spokesman said Burzik would also continue to act as the interim president of ABI’s molecular biology division until a replacement can be found. That search is ongoing, he said.


Solexa Appoints ABI Alum John West as New CEO

Solexa has appointed John West as its new CEO, replacing Nick McCooke.

Before joining Solexa, West was the vice president of DNA platforms at Applied Biosystems.

“While other companies propose stretching the microtiter plate concept to the limit with expensive microfluidic designs, Solexa has moved directly to the molecular level,” West said in a statement last week. “This promises thousand-fold higher density than the finest microfluidic chambers, with none of the complexity.”

West has also been president of Princeton Instruments, president and founder of BioAutomation, and marketing director for microfluidics at Microcosm Technologies.

West’s appointment comes days after Lynx Therapeutics quietly said it may be merging with Solexa for $2.5 million in loans.

The companies are currently reviewing and discussing the proposed merger with the objective of concluding a definitive, binding merger agreement in September.

Lynx has engaged Seven Hills Partners LLC as its financial advisor in merger discussions. The company, which makes and sells a massively parallel signature sequencing-based gene-expression platform, declined to comment on the merger during a conference call two weeks ago.


Sequenom Investors Remain Unconvinced That Systems Unit Will Drive Strong Growth

Investors in Sequenom were unconvinced during the past few weeks that the company’s recent decision to shutter its pharmaceuticals business in favor of its systems unit will lead to fast revenue growth.

Shares in the San Diego-based genotyping company were trading at $.91 on the Nasdaq exchange this Wednesday afternoon, 13 percent, or $.14, below their closing price on July 29, when the restructuring was announced [see 8/5/04 PGx Reporter].

The decline in share price means Sequenom has 14 trading days to get its stock above a dollar or risk receiving a letter from the Nasdaq exchange threatening to delist it.

The exchange issues a warning letter to its companies if their stock trades below $1 for 30 consecutive days. Sequenom shares last traded above this threshold Aug. 5, where they closed at $1.04.

If its shares trade below $1 for 30 consecutive days, Sequenom will have 90 days to get its share price trading above that minimum or risk being delisted to the over-the-counter market, according to the exchange. Sequenom has until Sept. 17 to raise its share price.


Agilent to Acquire Silicon Genetics …

Agilent Technologies plans to acquire Silicon Genetics, the companies said recently.

The new company will offer a range of informatics products for applications in gene expression, genotyping, and protein identification, Fran DiNuzzo, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Integrated Biology Solutions business, said in a statement.

Silicon Genetics makes GeneSpring, a genomic expression visualization and analysis platform; Varia, a line of genetic analysis software; and GeNet, a scalable repository for expression data.

Financial terms of the proposed acquisition were not disclosed.


… And Increases Investment in Rosetta Biosoftware

Agilent Technologies has increased its investment in Rosetta Biosoftware, the companies said recently.

Agilent is the exclusive distributor of the Rosetta Resolver and Rosetta Luminator gene-expression data analysis systems.

Financial details of the investment are not being disclosed.


Illumina Sells BeadStation to Galileo Genomics, Obtains Diagnostics Rights

Galileo Genomics has purchased two of Illumina’s BeadStation 500GX genotyping systems for its disease gene-discovery programs in an agreement that could be worth $1.5 million to Illumina, the companies said recently.

Under the agreement, Galileo will use the platforms in five disease gene-association studies that use DNA samples from the Quebec Founder population, a pool of 6 million individuals of French descent in Quebec.

Illumina will receive rights to diagnostics that could be developed from biomarkers discovered in the program, as well as from Galileo’s existing gene-discovery program for osteoarthritis.

The first disease that Galileo is studying under this program is the chronic gastrointestinal disorder Crohn’s disease. The company has already conducted genome-wide scans of 1,500 individuals within the Quebec Founder population to identify candidate regions associated with the disease, and will now analyze SNPs within that region, the companies said. The companies did not specify the four other diseases to be studied under the program.


Sequenom Inks Deal With TGen for Skin Cancer Genetics

Sequenom will provide the Translational Genomics Research Institute access to its candidate gene portfolio of targets associated with an individual’s predisposition for skin cancer, the company announced this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, TGen, based in Phoenix, Ariz., will further validate the candidate genes against its expression databases to look for their potential use as diagnostic markers for skin cancer risk and for the prognosis of skin cancer patients. Any products resulting from the collaboration will be jointly owned and commercialized, Sequenom said.

 

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