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Industry Briefs: Dec 18, 2008

Layoffs, Pay Reductions in Agilent’s Restructuring Program
Agilent Technologies this week disclosed a restructuring program that includes the elimination of 500 full-time permanent positions and more than 300 temporary positions.
The announcement came in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in which the company said the restructuring is “in response to deteriorating economic conditions and is designed to enhance the potential of some of its business units to reach their operating models goals.”
The restructuring plan was first outlined last week during the company’s annual Analyst Day meeting, though this week’s filing provided greater detail [See PM 12/11/08].
The plan also includes a temporary worldwide pay reduction and/or equivalent unpaid time off for employees. At its meeting last week, the company said the pay reduction would be 10 percent.
The restructuring program and reduction in temporary workforce are expected to save Agilent $65 million, according to the company. A majority of the restructuring is expected to be completed by May 31, 2009 with the balance to be done by Oct. 31, 2009. 
The pay reduction program, which will begin on Jan. 1, 2009, is anticipated to result in savings of $100 million.

MDS’ MS Revs Down 11 Percent in Q4
MDS this week said its mass spec business fell by 11 percent year-over-year as overall revenues shrunk by 4 percent during its fiscal fourth quarter.
The Toronto-based firm brought in revenues of $322 million for the three-month period ended Oct. 31, compared with revenues of $327 million for the fourth quarter of 2007. MDS said that excluding the impact of foreign exchange and acquisitions and divestitures, the firm’s revenues were up 4 percent.
MDS Analytical Technologies, which houses the firm’s mass spectrometry and Molecular Devices businesses, had an 8-percent drop in revenue to $99 million from $108 million. The firm said that the division continues to be impacted by soft demand for high-end instruments.
MDS Pharma Services’ fourth-quarter revenues fell to $112 million from $123 million year over year, and revenues for MDS Nordion grew to $84 million from $76 million.
The company posted a net loss of $255 million, due primarily to a $501 million write-off during the quarter associated with its investment in the MAPLE nuclear-reactor project. MDS posted a profit of $15 million for the comparable period of 2008. The fourth-quarter results also include a $160 million benefit for forgiveness of debt related to the MAPLE project, which was scrapped earlier this year. MDS has since filed a $1.6 billion court claim related to the project.
MDS’ research and development spending during the fourth quarter dropped 30 percent to $14 million from $20 million.
For full-year fiscal 2008, MDS brought in revenues of $1.3 billion, up 8 percent from revenues of $1.2 billion in 2007. The results are better than the revenue range of between $1.21 billion and $1.22 billion the firm forecast last week.
The firm’s net loss for the year was $233 million versus a profit of $781 million in 2007. Last year’s results include an $806 million gain from the sale of the firm’s Canadian diagnostics business.
MDS finished fiscal 2008 with $120 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Life on Nasdaq-100
Life Technologies announced this week that it will be included in the Nasdaq-100 Index, effective at open of market Dec. 22.
The Nasdaq-100 represents the largest non-financial domestic and international securities listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market based on market capitalization. In addition to biotechnology firms, the index includes retail, telecommunications, and computer hardware and software companies.
Life Technologies, formed by the merger of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems, has a market cap of about $3.8 billion.

Covance Buys a Piece of Caprion
Contract research organization Covance this week said it has acquired a minority stake in biomarker firm Caprion Proteomics.
Covance also said it plans to create a Biomarker Center of Excellence to accelerate its biomarker business.
Under terms of the deal, Covance will be the exclusive CRO distributor of Caprion’s biomarker services while Caprion will be Covance’s exclusive biomarker discovery provider.
Covance’s planned Biomarker Center of Excellence at the company’s Greenfield, Ind., campus will focus on biomarker testing and validation and leverage the discovery support services of Caprion, it said in a statement.
No financial details of the deal were disclosed.

PBI Collaborating with JCVI, Sells Instruments to Biopharma Firm
Pressure BioSciences this week announced a collaboration with the J. Craig Venter Institute using PBI’s pressure cycling technology and sample preparation platform, and the purchase of two of its sample prep systems by an unnamed biopharmaceutical firm.
JCVI has purchased a Barocycler NEP 2320 PCT Sample Preparation System as part of the collaboration. PBI intends to supply the institute with two additional instruments for further studies, and JCVI expects to develop PCT into its extraction protocols, PBI said in a statement.
Among the projects that JCVI will use the platform for is the NIH-funded human microbiome project for the discovery and cataloging of microbes that live on and in the human body.
In a statement, Scott Peterson, director of functional genomics research and technology at JCVI, called the PCT technology an “exciting tool for extracting nucleic acids and proteins from challenging biological samples like those associated with our human microbiome project.”
PBI also said that two PCT Sample Preparation Systems have been purchased by a “leading global biopharmaceutical company,” to continue studies in improving throughput, product characterization, and method development applications. The biopharm firm also is conducting a multi-functional cross-site initiative to evaluate other applications of PCT as a potential platform technology, PBI said. 
Financial terms were not released for either deal.

U. Washington Proteomics Center Gains Access to ProteinCenter
Researchers at the University of Washington Proteomics Resource Center will have access to Proxeon’s ProteinCenter under a partnership announced this week.
ProteinCenter is a database derived from all major protein databases that allows for the filtering, clustering, and statistical bioinformatics analysis from single, combined, or comparison datasets, Proxeon said in a statement.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

RayBiotech, SeraCare Reach Distribution Deal
SeraCare will sell RayBiotech proteomics products under an agreement announced this week.
The deal covers Norcross, Ga.-based RayBiotech’s antibody assays, protein arrays, tissue microarrays, and ELISA and EIA kits.
Based in Milford, Mass., SeraCare’s portfolio includes diagnostic controls, plasma-derived reagents, and molecular biomarkers.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RBM Awarded $1.5M NCI SBIR Award
Rules Based Medicine this week said it has received a National Cancer Institute Small Business Innovation Research Award totaling $1.5 million to further develop an ovarian cancer diagnostic test.
RBM will work with Correlogic Systems to conduct research on such a test. The two firms had collaborated on Correlogic’s first ovarian cancer diagnostic, OvaCheck.
The award includes a Phase 1 Fast Track component and a Phase II option.
Under the two phases of the project, RBM will develop and test quantitative, multiplexed immunoassays that incorporate 19 additional analytes it and Correlogic have identified as biomarkers that could potentially enhance the accuracy of ovarian cancer detection. Correlogic will expand its existing analytic platform to determine the efficacy of including the 19 additional analytes onto the existing assay.
Upon completion, RBM will add the analytes onto its automated RBM Human Multi-Analyte Profile platform, HumanMAP.

Caprotec Receives $864K to Develop Technology
Caprotec Bioanalytics this week announced a two-year grant of €600,000 ($864,000) for research and the development of its Capture Compounds and caproKits for the analysis of proteins in signal transduction.
The funding came from the Federal State of Berlin and the European Union Regional Development Fund.
Caprotec’s Capture Compound Mass Spectrometry technology is for the investigation of small molecule-protein interactions. The technology allows for the direct isolation and identification of selected proteins including membrane proteins from complex biological sample.

The Scan

Study Finds Few FDA Post-Market Regulatory Actions Backed by Research, Public Assessments

A Yale University-led team examines in The BMJ safety signals from the US FDA Adverse Event Reporting System and whether they led to regulatory action.

Duke University Team Develops Programmable RNA Tool for Cell Editing

Researchers have developed an RNA-based editing tool that can target specific cells, as they describe in Nature.

Novel Gene Editing Approach for Treating Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers in Science Advances report on their development of a non-nuclease-based gene editing approach they hope to apply to treat cystic fibrosis.

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.