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Benitec, Genta and Invitrogen


Benitec Closes AU$11 Million Private Placement

Benitec closed this week an AU$11 million ($8.1 million) placement of its common stock with institutional investors in Europe and Australia, Benitec CEO John McKinley told RNAi News this week.

McKinley noted that the company remains on track to moving its stock from the Australian Stock Exchange to a US exchange next year, and is in the process of incorporating in Delaware.

Genta Completes US Regulatory Filing for Antisense Cancer Drug

Genta said this week that it has completed its submission to the US Food and Drug Administration of a new drug application for the antisense drug Genasense as an adjuvant to dacarbazine for treating advanced malignant melanoma.

The drug, developed with Aventis, is also being examined for use against other malignancies.

The NDA was filed under the FDA’s fast track process, and the company said that it has asked the drug to be given a priority review. Such a review typically results in an action on a drug application within six months.

Genasense, said Genta, inhibits the production of Bcl-2, a protein made by cancer cells that is thought to prevent chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. By blocking Bcl-2, Genta expects that Genasense will increase the efficacy of existing cancer treatments.

Invitrogen sees strong revenue growth, R&D boost, more acquisitions in 2004

Invitrogen executives this week predicted double-digit growth in revenues and profits for the 2004 fiscal year, accompanied by an increase in R&D spending, and a continuation of the company’s aggressive acquisition strategy.

At its annual guidance conference, held at New York’s W Hotel, CEO Gregory Lucier outlined Invitrogen’s outlook for becoming the “premier biotechnology company in tools and technology” — a plan that comprises revitalizing the organic growth of the company’s current product line, enhancing the effectiveness of its sales process, improving its operational efficiency, and pursuing new acquisitions in high-growth technology areas such as the recent move to expand its RNAi technologies by acquiring Sequitur.

Invitrogen has become “adept at integrating acquisitions” over the last year, Lucier said, and the company views acquisitions as “an important part of its strategy for 2004.” Lucier declined to provide details on the company’s acquisition pipeline, but noted that Invitrogen sees the most growth potential in areas downstream of genomics, which currently comprises around one-third of its total business, but is “flat” in terms of growth. New technology areas of interest include functional genomics, proteomics, cell biology, assay development, and drug development, he said.

The company has over $1 billion cash on hand for acquisitions and other investments, Lucier noted.

Invitrogen is also currently retraining its sales staff towards “solution selling” rather than one-off product sales, he said, with the goal of increasing the average purchase order from $400 to $5,000 by offering bundled, “product systems” for targeted research areas.

The net effect of the anticipated sales boost is a projected revenue increase of 16 percent year-over-year, to $890 million in 2004. Net income is projected to be $749 million for 2004 — a 26 percent increase over 2003.

Invitrogen plans to ramp up R&D over the course of 2004, with R&D spending expected to increase to $77 million, or 10 percent of sales, compared to $54 million, or 7 percent of sales in 2003.



The Scan

Rise of BA.5

The New York Times reports that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 has become the dominant version of SARS-CoV-2 in the US.

UK Health Secretary Resigns

Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, resigned along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, saying they cannot work with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, CNN reports.

Clones From Freeze-Dried Cells

A team in Japan has cloned mice from freeze-dried skin cells, according to the Guardian.

Genome Research Papers on Craniosynostosis, Macaque Retrotransposition, More

In Genome Research this week: structural variants in craniosynostosis, LINE-1 activity in rhesus macaque brain, and more.