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Lumera Breaks Out Proteomics Arm to Drive Growth, Allay Market Confusion

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As it prepares to launch a commercial product early next year, Lumera last week carved out its biosciences division into a separate subsidiary to eliminate any confusion about its proteomics business.
 
The new company, called Plexera Bioscience, will now focus on further developing its main proteomics platform, the ProteomicProcessor Biosensor, to bring to market.
 
The proteomics shop had been half of Lumera’s business, the other half being its Electro-Optics division, which develops electro-optical polymer modulators and other devices for optical networks and systems.
 
By forming Plexera, Lumera also is hoping to end any confusion about what it does while ensuring that its proteomics business doesn’t get short-shrift, company officials told ProteoMonitor this week.
 
“The main goal was to clarify, for not only the scientific community but also for the investment community, the business goals and the technical goals of the organization,” said Tim Londergan, president and COO of Plexera.
 
“We can do this much easier under this kind of structure versus the structure [under] which we were operating,” said Londergan, who had been director of Lumera’s bioscience business unit. Along with Londergan, Joseph Vallner was named chairman and CEO of Plexera. Vallner is a Lumera director.
 
Brand Awareness
 
Lumera had turned the bioscience business into a separate segment last year in order to “facilitate its drive toward successful market commercialization and the transition from a research and development company,” Lumera said in a statement. But like other companies with divergent operations, Lumera found investors and clients fumbling to understand what the company did.
 
For example, last year, after Caprion Pharmaceuticals announced it was going public, the investment community sat on its hands, confused about how the company’s proteomics business related to its drug development operations, said Lloyd Segal, formerly the CEO of Caprion, now CEO of Thallion Pharmaceuticals, formed by the merger of Caprion with Ecopia BioSciences earlier this year [See PM 01/11/07].
 
In the case of Lumera, whose two businesses were even more dissimilar than Caprion’s, as it began ramping up commercialization of its proteomics product, “it wasn’t unusual for company officials to run into someone who would say, ‘Didn’t you do a deal with Lockheed, something to do with satellites? What’s that got to do with bio?’” said Helene Jaillet, director of investor relations and corporate communications for Lumera. She said, however, that Lumera had not lost potential investments due to confusion over its business model.
 
But moving forward, Plexera would like to do more branding, explore partnering opportunities, and do more customer outreach, so “giving [the proteomics operations] its own identify seemed to make a whole lot more sense,” she said.
 
Along with a new name, Plexera has hired investment firm Robert W. Baird to explore partnering opportunities and search for potential investors.
 
The first priority is to continue developing the ProteomicProcessor, a high-throughput surface plasmon biosensor system for protein discovery and characterization. Lumera had contracted with four institutions for beta testing of the platform: Harvard Medical School; the Institute for Systems Biology; the Medical University of South Carolina; and Baylor University.
 

“The main goal was to clarify, for not only the scientific community but also for the investment community, the business goals and the technical goals of the organization.”

“We started with our key opinion leaders,” Londergan said. “We’ve got some validation from those folks, [and] we’ve now moved to taking the unit one step further. We’ve done a fair amount of market survey and are now tuning the instrument and basically building the next generation.”
 
One thing that the ProteomicProcessor will be able to do is screen large numbers of antibodies on nanocapture array slides. By doing so, the platform will “deliver not only specificity profiling of the antibodies versis the antigen, but also kinetic information simultaneously,” said Ron Dudek, director of business development for Plexera.
 
The company anticipates bringing the platform to market early next year. If that happens, it would be the first proteomic product by Lumera or Plexera on the market.
 
In 2006, Lumera posted a loss of $12.1 million on revenues of $3.36 million. The bioscience segment posted revenues of $119,000 during the year primarily due to initial sales of beta release ProteomicProcessor, the company said in its annual earnings report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
 
In addition to the ProteomicProcessor, Plexera is developing a suite of microarray products initially focused on the antibody development market where users will define the content on the array.
 
“Longer term we see content development as the path forward,” Londergan said, adding Plexera is working with its four beta sites to develop new applications where the microarray will ultimately be shipped with biological content. Ultimately, he said, the firm sees itself as a tool company but with a higher value consumable business.

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