Structural Genomix Lays Off 20 Percent of Workforce
Structural Genomix of San Diego told ProteoMonitor last week that it had laid off approximately 20 percent of its workforce as it completes the transition to a drug discovery company. The departing employees were primarily associated with the company’s efforts to crystallize and determine the structure of novel, previously uncharacterized proteins, said Eric de la Fortelle, Structural Genomix’ director of business development.
Although the cuts occurred across the board, de la Fortelle said that a plurality of the layoffs occurred in the company’s bioinformatics department. “We measured the degree to which the employees contributed to the company’s central mission of drug discovery [and made cuts accordingly],” he said. In the past, Structural Genomix spent considerable effort on characterizing novel potential drug targets, but de la Fortelle said the company is now concentrating primarily on crystallizing and determining the structure of specific protein-ligand complexes.
Lynx Redirects Focus with Change in Management
Providing an explanation for the recent management shakeup at Lynx Therapeutics, in which CEO Norrie Russell was replaced by vice president Kevin Corcoran, chairman of the board Craig Taylor told ProteoMonitor’s sister publication BioArray News that the change came as a consequence of the company’s newly narrowed focus in the wake of its $22.6 million financing round and workforce reduction.
“With the force reduction, [we put] two things on hold for development: one was a program called Megatype and another one was our genomic discovery group,” said Taylor. “Norrie had been head of discovery at Zeneca prior to their merger [with Astra], and he came to Lynx because he was pretty jazzed about the discovery capabilities of MPSS.”
At Lynx, Russell had a plan to “move up the value chain and become a drug company,” Taylor said. “We really decided to become a good old-fashioned information and tool company and not move up the value chain and become a drug company. We are really not doing what he wanted to do.”
Corcoran, on the other hand, “has been involved in the development of MPSS from day one,” Taylor said. Since the company’s new round of financing, which closed April 17, Lynx has signed MPSS genotyping agreements with the National Cancer Institute, the Institute for Systems Biology, and Wilex, a cancer-focused biopharmaceutical company based in Munich.
The new wave of contracts, said Taylor, reflect the company’s desire to start making money and turn cash flow positive before the funding runs out. “That’s what the company is going to be about, making money, not making discoveries,” he said.
Lynx is also developing technology for separating proteins called the Protein Profiler, a two-dimensional microchannel electrophoresis system with potential advantages over conventional 2D gel electrophoresis.
Phylos Wins $360,000 SBIR Grant for Cytokine Array
Phylos of Lexington, Mass., announced last week it had won a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. The $358,326 grant, which lasts through 2004, will allow the company to continue developing a multiplexed cytokine microarray with Phylos’ Trinectin binding proteins serving as capture agents. The company’s first SBIR grant for work on this technology was awarded in 1999.
Trinectin binding proteins, according to Phylos, come from small non-antibody protein domains that resemble antibodies in structure and in binding sites. The company is combining these proteins with its ProFusion technology, which links proteins to encoded mRNA and is designed to enable amplification of this complex to a detectable level on its protein chips.
The company is developing a high-throughput array-based platform to simultaneously measure different cytokine levels using only small amounts of biological sample.
AxCell Signs Letter of Intent for CRADA with NCI
AxCell Biosciences said last week it will give the National Cancer Institute access to part of its ProChart database to help it research a prostate cancer-suppressor gene.
The deal, announced in a letter of intent, calls for the NCI to give AxCell certain biological and biochemical data about the oncogene, which encodes for a protein containing an SH3 domain-binding ligand. In exchange, AxCell, a unit of biotech firm Cytogen, will give the NCI SH3 domain-interaction data from its ProChart tool.