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WaferGen Closes $7.2M Direct Offering to Bolster Cash Position, Support SmartChip Launch


This article has updated from a previous version to correct the amount raised in WaferGen's direct offering.

By Ben Butkus

WaferGen Biosystems today announced the closing of a $7.2 million registered direct offering, which has netted the company $6.7 million to bolster its dwindling cash reserves and prepare its SmartChip real-time PCR system for commercial launch.

WaferGen initiated the direct offering last week, saying that it had secured commitments from certain investors to purchase approximately $7 million in previously unissued securities.

Although the Fremont, Calif.-based company has struck numerous partnerships and has signed early-access customers for its forthcoming flagship PCR platform, it warned in an April prospectus that it only had enough funds to finance operations through June of this year (PCR Insider, 4/29/10).

The company has been planning to launch the SmartChip platform some time in the second half of this year, but has not pinpointed a specific date. Today, WaferGen Chairman and CEO Alnoor Shivji told PCR Insider that the SmartChip platform "will be launched imminently;" and that the company has a specific launch date in mind, but is currently ironing out final details.

WaferGen said in a statement that it aims to sell 10 to 15 SmartChip systems by the end of the year, particularly to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved with drug development and biomarker profiling.

Shivji added that the company's dual commercialization strategy of landing early-access partners and offering in-house contract gene expression profiling on SmartChip "has been going very well," and that the company is ahead of a previously stated goal to reach customers in top-20 pharma and biotech companies and top-40 translational medical centers. So far, WaferGen has announced a total of ten early-access customers who have purchased systems and/or services (PCR Insider, 5/6/10).

As part of the offering closed today, current Shivji will purchase $1 million worth of securities; while four other members of Wafergen's board have contributed a total of $500,000. WaferGen did not disclose the identity of additional investors participating in the offering.

WaferGen has issued to the investors an aggregate of approximately 6 million units at a price of $1.20 per unit, with each unit comprising one share of common stock and a warrant to purchase 50 percent of one share of common stock exercisable at $1.55 per share.

The company said that it expects to net proceeds of approximately $6.7 million after deducting placement agent fees and other offering expenses, and expects to use the proceeds for "general working capital purposes," including the commercialization of the SmartChip system, scaling up manufacturing capabilities, and other general operating expenses.

The SmartChip system comprises consumable SmartChips, a nanodispenser, and a thermal cycler. The company is developing the system with two chip configurations and two instrument configurations: a 5,184-assay chip preloaded with primer content for studying gene panels or candidate genes of interest; and a high-throughput whole-genome version with 30,000 assays per chip.

Wafergen has said that researchers using the system can conduct gene expression research at a fraction of the time and cost of existing instrument systems. Its primary competitors in the space will include Life Technologies, Affymetrix, and Illumina.