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BioArray Briefs: Apr 28, 2009


California Outpatient Centers Offering 23andMe Service

California's Palomar Pomerado Health will offer 23andMe's genome service at its outpatient centers in San Diego, the organizations said this week.

The direct-to-consumer genomics service company said that the agreement with PPH marks the first time that its Personal Genome Service will be available for sale outside of its website. The firm's service is run using the Affymetrix platform.

Under the partnership, PPH will offer the service for $399 at two of its retail health centers in Escondido and Rancho Penasquitos, and at the Pomerado Outpatient Pavilion in Poway. Patients at these centers interested in the service will receive a personal session with a PPH nurse practitioner to discuss the PGS service.

"Because genetics significantly impacts a person's risk for developing certain diseases, having access to genetic information can be useful for both patients and physicians in helping to prevent health problems down the road," Jerry Kolins, PPH's associate chief medical quality officer and medical director for PPH Laboratories, said in a statement.

Sequenom to Lay Off 30 Staffers to Cut Costs

Sequenom said last week that it will lay off 30 employees — around 12 percent of its staff — in an effort to reduce costs.
In a statement, Sequenom said that "as a result of the continuing weak outlook in 2009 for capital equipment sales, particularly in the USA," it has carried out cost-cutting initiatives in its Genetic Analysis business "to ensure the unit remains financially strong and approaches cash flow breakeven."

The company said that it is also "repositioning the GA business to better exploit potential synergies with the molecular diagnostic business by focusing on developing methods and assays for translational research and patient profiling in clinical trials."
Sequenom said that it has laid off 30 employees from its GA workforce, effective immediately. As of Feb. 2, 2009, the company employed 248 people, according to its most recent annual report.

The layoffs are expected to save $8 million in 2009, with an annualized reduction in costs of $10 million. The company will record estimated charges of $850,000 in the second quarter of 2009 in connection with the layoffs. Sequenom said that it plans to "add resources" to the GA business unit "as the economy shows improvement and revenues resume an upward trend."

"These actions are difficult but essential," Harry Stylli, president and CEO of Sequenom, said in a statement. "While we remain optimistic that the outlook for the genetic analysis business will improve, we also need to exercise financial prudence to ensure that our capital resources are properly allocated and utilized."

Stylli added that the company will continue to market its products to its "traditional customers," such as academic institutions who are carrying out genotyping, methylation, and gene expression studies. However, he said that there is "great potential value" for its offerings "in new and growing markets, such as translational research, and in better exploiting the interface with the molecular diagnostics business."

The company still plans to launch its SEQureDx prenatal testing technology in June.

Sequenom said it will provide additional details about the restructuring with the release of its first-quarter 2009 financial results, scheduled for April 30.

Satoris, RayBiotech to Co-develop Alzheimer's Test

Satoris will collaborate with RayBiotech to develop array-based test kits for Alzheimer's disease, the firms said last week.

Satoris, a Redwood City, Calif.-based molecular diagnostics company, has developed a panel of 18 biomarkers that predicted the presence of Alzheimer's disease in test sample sets with up to 90 percent accuracy. The firm said it will collaborate with RayBiotech, a developer and supplier of multiplex protein detection arrays and array-based test kits, to help bring the panel to market.

Under the collaboration, the 18 biomarkers will be applied to the RayBiotech Quantibody array platform. After the array-based test is validated for performance, it will be commercialized later this year as a research-use-only test.
Norcross, Ga.-based RayBiotech will market the test, and Satoris will use the array along with proprietary bioinformatic analysis tools to offer a testing service.

"We expect this blood test will be well received as a valuable tool in Alzheimer's research and, potentially, as a diagnostic test as well," said Ray Huang, RayBiotech's president, in a statement. "Using antibody-based approaches, more biomarkers can be identified, validated, and put into clinical application faster and cheaper than with traditional methods based on mass spectrometry."

Greifswald to Use InforSense Software for Genotyping Study

InforSense said last week that the University of Greifswald is using its GenSense software platform to handle quality control, analysis, and annotation for a genotyping study of the causes of various diseases.

The University, located in Germany's Baltic Sea region, will use the software to analyze data from a study of 4,100 individuals who were genotyped with the Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0.

The Study of Health in Pomerania, which includes phenotype data, is aimed at finding the genetic causes of complex diseases, including the susceptibility loci for several common diseases.

The GenSense platform enables customers to "automate their genotypic analysis and quality control and improve productivity, especially when data needs to be repeatedly reformatted and transformed for use with different studies and tools," Jonathan Sheldon, InforSense's chief scientific officer, said in a statement.

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Madrid Genetics Institute Installs CapitalBio Array Platform

Spain's Institute of Molecular and Medical Genetics, or INGEMM, has purchased a CapitalBio Array Platform through the distributor Biotools, Biotools said last week.

The Madrid-based INGEMM, located at the La Paz University Hospital, will also receive continuous training and advice from Biotools in using the platform and designing of microarray experiments.

The company said the agreement is the beginning of "a close collaboration with INGEMM aimed at developing microarrays for pharmacogenomics and genetic disease diagnostics.

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

The Scan

Transplant Tests Edited Pig Kidneys

The Associated Press reports a University of Alabama-Birmingham team transplanted genetically modified pig kidneys into a brain-dead human patient.

UK Changes Some Gene-Edited Crop Rules

A new law may enable gene-edited crops to be sold in the UK within about five years, New Scientist says.

Pill Works Against Omicron in Lab

Pfizer's antiviral pill to treat SARS-CoV-2 appears to work against the Omicron variant, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Nature Papers Find Genetic Risk Factor for Smell, Taste Loss in COVID-19; Analyze TB Granulomas

In Nature this week: genome-wide association study find locus linked to the risk COVID-19 patients losing their sense of taste or smell, and more.