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WaferGen Cuts 20 Staffers in Second Round of Layoffs; Launches 'Open Format' Strategy for SmartChip


WaferGen Biosystems this week said that it has cut 20 jobs in order to cut costs and provide "more operational flexibility."

The restructuring is the second for WaferGen in recent months. In December, the company cut its workforce by 24 percent in a move intended to reduce its annual operating expenses by $1.3 million (PCR Insider, 12/1/2011). The latest reorganization is expected to cut its monthly burn rate by 30 percent to around $700,000.

According to a recent 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, WaferGen ended 2011 with 52 full-time employees. It ended the first quarter with around $12 million of cash and equivalents.

At the time of the December layoffs, the company launched a new marketing strategy intended to drive adoption of its SmartChip real-time PCR system that emphasized the platform's ability to validate biomarkers discovered via next-generation sequencing.

This week, WaferGen announced another new strategy focused on an "open format" version of the SmartChip that allows users to create customized content for the system.

WaferGen CEO Ivan Trifunovich, who joined the company in March (PCR Insider, 3/15/2012), said in a statement that the company plans to offer "a variety of chemistries to provide an open format for cost-effective gene expression and genotyping analysis, as well as target enrichment for NGS."

In its 10-K filing, WaferGen said its 2011 revenues fell more than four-fold to $522,931 from $2.2 million in 2010.

The company said that the decrease was due to declining sales of SmartChip products, as well as decreases in fees from its fee-for-service business.

For the year, "commercialization efforts for the SmartChip Real-Time PCR Systems product line did not produce meaningful results because of the relatively small amount of sales and marketing resources, more entrenched competition, the limited number of applications, the length of the sales cycle and the small installed base of systems from which to generate recurring revenue from consumables," WaferGen said in the filing.

Its net loss for 2011 increased to $13.1 million from $12.1 million in 2010.

WaferGen said in the filing that its cash and projected revenue should be enough to fund operations "at least into the second quarter of 2013."

It added, however, that it will likely need to raise further capital to support future operations.

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