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Mark Stevenson, William Murray, Leonard Klevan, Carl Turza, Harry Glorikian, GE Healthcare, Invitrogen, FDA, Beckman Coulter, Molecular Devices, Sigma-Aldrich, ABI, Benitec, Illumina


Applied Biosystems announced this week that Mark Stevenson has been appointed president of the firm's molecular biology division, which is being renamed the molecular and cellular biology division. He previously served as president of the firm's applied markets division. Stevenson succeeds William Murray, who has resigned due to personal reasons.

ABI also announced that Leonard Klevan has replaced Stevenson as president of the applied markets division. Klevan had joined ABI earlier this year as vice president of R&D for applied markets. Before joining ABI, he was CEO of ReliaGene Technologies. He also is a former president and CEO of MiraiBio, a subsidiary of Hitachi Software Engineering, and had managed technology acquisitions and business development at Life Technologies, which was acquired by Invitrogen in 2000.

Sigma-Aldrich has named Carl Turza as chief information officer, effective May 1. Turza will lead the company's information technology and Internet functions. Turza previously held senior IT management positions at W.W. Grainger, AlliedSignal Aerospace, and several other organizations.

Harry Glorikian, a partner and management consultant for life sciences advisory firm TSG Partners, has been named to the biomedical advisory board of Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.

BioCommerce Briefs

GE Healthcare's Q1 Revenues Climb 10 Percent

GE Healthcare's revenues for the first quarter of 2006 climbed 10 percent, and the segment's earnings increased 21 percent, General Electric reported last week.

For the quarter ending March 31, GE Healthcare had $3.7 billion in revenues, up from $3.3 billion during the same quarter in 2005.

GE Healthcare's earnings for the quarter amounted to $496 million, up from $409 million in the first quarter of 2005.

General Electric's total revenues for the quarter were $23.5 billion, up from $21.4 billion during the same period last year. The company reported $4.3 billion, or $.41 per share, in total earnings for the quarter, up from $4 billion, or $.37 per share, during the same quarter in 2005.

GE Healthcare did not break out its research and development expenses for the quarter.

As of March 31, GE had $53.6 billion in cash and marketable securities.

Invitrogen Files CISH Probes with FDA

Invitrogen has filed for US Food and Drug Administration clearance of its Her2 chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH) probes, a company official told BioCommerce Week sister publication Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week.

The official said Invitrogen is actively seeking pharmaceutical partners that may be able to use the probes to help select patient populations.

According to Julian Husbands, business area manager of diagnostic solutions at Invitrogen, the Her2 CISH probes, along with EGFR CISH probes and several immunohistochemical probes, might be suited to identify patient tumors that will respond to GlaxoSmithKline's breast cancer drug Tykerb.

Invitrogen obtained the CISH probes through its $60-million acquisition of Zymed in January 2005 (see BioCommerce Week 1/13/2005).

Speaking at BIO 2006 last week in Chicago, Todd Nelson, vice president of corporate development at Invitrogen, said that one area of interest for the company could be "enabling" pharmaceutical companies that want to partner with diagnostic shops to develop companion drug-diagnostic products, or so-called theranostics. According to Nelson, this is an area of "exceptional growth." (see BioCommerce Week 4/12/2006).

Beckman Coulter Declares $.15 Quarterly Dividend

Beckman Coulter's board of directors has declared a quarterly dividend payout of $0.15 per share, the company said this week.

The dividend is payable on June 8 to all stockholders of record on May 19.

The company said this represents its 68th consecutive quarterly dividend payout.

Molecular Devices Downgraded, Sigma-Aldrich Upgraded

Shares in Molecular Devices dropped 6.7 percent on Monday to close at $32.53 after Robert W. Baird investment analyst Quintin J. Lai downgraded the firm's shares from 'outperform' to 'neutral.' The stock had a slight rebound on Tuesday, closing up 2.9 percent at 33.48.

Sigma-Aldrich's shares were upgraded on Monday by Banc of America Securities analyst Robert W. Willoughby from 'neutral' to 'buy.' Willoughby raised his price target on the firm's shares to $72 from $65.

"More of the company's excess cash flow will accrue to the immediate benefit of its shareholders following a period of heightened capital spending to support future growth," he wrote in a research note.

Sigma's shares rose 1.8 percent on Monday and a further 1.5 percent on Tuesday, closing at $67.86. The stock's 52-week high is $68.23, which was reached during Tuesday trade.

ABI Expects More Acquisitions

Applied Biosystems is planning on being more active in the merger and acquisition market over the next few years, President Cathy Burzik told Reuters in an interview last week at the BIO 2006 conference in Chicago.

According to the news agency, Burzik said, "We can't signal what the targets are, but we have a number of companies we are interested in." She also said that any such acquisitions would be "strategically aligned" with the company's position and not just bolt-on acquisitions.

ABI finished 2005 — and the firm's fiscal second quarter — by signing a deal to acquire the research products division of RNAi firm Ambion for roughly $273 million in cash (see BioCommerce Week 1/4/2006). The acquisition is an important part of ABI's strategy to drive growth of its consumables, while gaining entry to a market that it estimated at $500 million and growing at an annual rate of more than 10 percent.

During a recent webcast, ABI officials did not specifically discuss their M&A plans, but they did say that the firm intends to grow revenue over the next two years in the diverse applied markets field.

"If you look at near-term and long-term, and where AB is placing its bets and making investments, clearly it's in this area of applied markets and sequencing tailored for applied markets, including software and kits for that space," Burzik said during the webcast (see BioCommerce Week 3/29/2006).

Benitec Lays Off Half of US Staff; Trims Drug-Development Programs

Benitec said this week that it has cut its US workforce in half in an effort to reduce the operational expenses of its US subsidiary.

The company expects to save approximately $100,000 per month as a result of the layoffs. Benitec also said that it has implemented further expenses reductions associated with its drug development programs, and significantly reduced its facilities costs, which is anticipated to save the company another $250,000 per month.

Benitec is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., but is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and has additional facilities in Dulwich Hill, Australia.

Benitec said that the cost reductions should result in a 50-percent decrease in monthly spending levels, and save the company about $4 million annually.

"The directors recognize that Benitec does not currently have the required levels of capital to continue funding a US drug-development business at the rate of expenditure to date," Peter Francis, chairman of Benitec, said in a statement.

Benitec is currently developing RNAi-based therapeutics for hepatitis C and HIV.

In October 2005, Sigma-Aldrich made a $2.5-million equity stake in Benitec and acquired the right to use Benitec's intellectual property to develop and market research reagents (see BioCommerce Week 10/27/2005).

Illumina's Q1 Revenues Nearly Double as Loss Narrows

Illumina this week reported a 93-percent increase in first-quarter revenues atop greater R&D spending and a narrowed net loss.

Total receipts for the three months ended April 2 increased to $29.1 million from $15.1 million year over year, Illumina said. Receipts from its three sources of revenue increased across the board year over year, with product revenue increasing 91 percent to 23.3 million, service and "other" receipts increasing 96 percent to $5.3 million, and research revenue increasing 97 percent to $574,000.

Illumina said R&D spending increased 39 percent in the first quarter to $8.2 million from $5.9 million.

Net loss in the period declined to $104,000, or $.00, from $1.2 million, or $.03 per share.

Illumina said it had around $49 million in cash and investments as of April 2.

The company also updated its guidance for the second quarter and the remainder of the year. For the second quarter, the company now expects total revenue to be between $31 million and $33 million, which are increases of between 96 percent and 108 percent, year over year.

For the full year, Illumina now said it believes total revenue for 2006 will be between $130 million and $140 million, or increases of between 77 percent and 90 percent year over year.

The company also said that excluding the effect of non-cash stock compensation expense, R&D spending in 2006 as a percentage of total revenue is expected to decline, but will increase in whole terms to between from $30 million and $35 million from $27.7 million year over year.

Illumina also said it expects to be "at least" cash flow breakeven this year. "Working capital requirements and spending on capacity expansion will be the key drivers of cash flow in 2006," the company said in a statement.

The Scan

Study Tracks Responses in Patients Pursuing Polygenic Risk Score Profiling

Using interviews, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics qualitatively assess individuals' motivations for, and experiences with, direct-to-consumer polygenic risk score testing.

EHR Quality Improvement Study Detects Demographic-Related Deficiencies in Cancer Family History Data

In a retrospective analysis in JAMA Network Open, researchers find that sex, ethnicity, language, and other features coincide with the quality of cancer family history information in a patient's record.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Linked to Gut Microbiome Community Structure Gradient in Meta-Analysis

Bringing together data from prior studies, researchers in Genome Biology track down microbial taxa and a population structure gradient with ties to ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Ancient Greek Army Ancestry Highlights Mercenary Role in Historical Migrations

By profiling genomic patterns in 5th century samples from in and around Himera, researchers saw diverse ancestry in Greek army representatives in the region, as they report in PNAS.