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Syn X Pharma, Activx Biosciences, F&S Report, NIH, Matrix Science, Astex Technology


Syn X Faces Dire Financial Future; Estimates $2.1M Deficit for 2003

Despite record revenues last year, Syn X Pharma of Toronto is facing a gloomy financial future.

Last week, the company reported CA$6.2 million ($4.2 million) in revenues for 2002, up more than sixfold from just under CA$1 million ($0.68 million) last year. Most of this — CA$6 million ($4.1 million) — represents licensing fees. However, the company also booked a loss of CA$9.2 million ($6.3 million) for the year, on a par with last year’s loss. Research and development costs soared to CA$9.8 million ($6.7 million) in 2002 from CA$7.3 million ($5 million) the previous year, due to expanded research activities in Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, and insulin resistance/diabetes. At the end of 2002, Syn X had CA$2.9 million ($2 million) left in cash. Combined with receivables and a tax credit of an additional CA$0.8 million ($0.5 million), this “will not be sufficient to finance the operations of the company for the next twelve months,” according to a company statement.

Syn X projects revenues from existing commercial deals to reach CA$11 million ($7.5 million) this year, resulting from milestone payments from contracts, payments for research work, product sales, and service fees for the support of incubator companies. However, estimated operating expenses and capital expenditures plus existing liabilities will likely add up to CA$17 million ($11.6 million), leaving the company with a projected deficit of CA$3.1 million ($2.1 million).

“Every effort is being made to fill this gap with additional collaborative and/or licensing agreements, research contracts and the sale of products,” the company said in a statement, adding that it will seek to raise additional private or public equity if necessary.

Despite these dire prospects, Syn X also reported last week that it has received the Etobicoke Chamber of Commerce 2003 Business Excellence Award in the research and development category. The award “recognizes local businesses that have demonstrated innovation in their field and commitment to the community,” according to the company.


Activx Biosciences Develops Technology for Profiling Kinases and Related Proteins

Activx Biosciences of La Jolla, Calif., said last week that it can now detect all major subclasses of kinases using its profiling technology, including serine/threonine kinases, tyrosine kinases, tyrosine-like kinases, and kinases catalyzing metabolic reactions. In addition, it can assay proteins with nucleotide-binding domains that are functionally related to kinases, including various enzymes and transport and structural proteins.


F&S Report: Microfluidics Market to Grow

The market for microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip technology will likely grow, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.

According to the study, revenues are will increase from $127.8 million in 2002 to $709.9 million in 2008. Government funding through grants or direct sales will increase, the report predicts, in particular for biodefense-related detection technologies. However, due to the current high price for microfluidics technology, its adoption in the clinical diagnostics field might be slow in the near term. With many products in the final stages of beta testing, a large number of product releases is to be expected, covering diverse application areas that go beyond DNA or RNA analysis. However, widespread IP litigation could be a deterrent to growth, with cross-licensing as a possible solution. Since most companies in the market are startups, collaborations will be of high relevance, the study predicts.


NIH Installs Mascot on Central Server

Matrix Science of London said last week that the NIH has installed its protein identification software Mascot on a central server.

Researchers at the NIH’s 27 institutes and centers can now access Mascot for their research. Ten NIH institutes had already set up Mascot on local servers.

The central server, a Linux cluster, went live near the end of last year and is currently being accessed by over 100 users, with more than 300 searches being run each week, according to the company.


Astex Collaborates With UK Cancer Institutes

Astex Technology of Cambridge, UK, said this month that it has started an exclusive research collaboration and licensing agreement with the Institute of Cancer Research and with Cancer Research Technology, the technology transfer arm of Cancer Research UK.

The aim of the collaboration is to discover novel drugs against the enzyme protein kinase B. To that end, Astex and the Institute of Cancer Research have established a joint research team to identify and develop novel drug candidates. Astex will apply its fragment-based lead discovery approach, which involves x-ray crystallography, and its medicinal chemistry expertise.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.