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454, CuraGen, Dubai Regional Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, United Arab Emirates, Qiagen, Biomatrica, Microsynth, Sloning, Helmholtz Association, Russia's Interior Ministry

454 Acquisition Valued at $152M; CuraGen to Net $86M
CuraGen disclosed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week that stockholders of its 454 Life Sciences subsidiary will receive $152 million from the sale of the business to Roche, which closed on May 29.
The company had previously estimated that the value of the sale would be $154.9 million [see In Sequence 04-03-07]. 
In the SEC filing, CuraGen said that 454’s stockholders will receive up to $152 million in cash, of which Roche paid $140 million in cash. The remaining $12 million was received from the exercise of 454 stock options following the signing of the merger agreement and prior to the closing.
Of the $140 million paid by Roche, $25 million was placed in escrow for a period of 15 months to provide for “certain post-closing adjustments based on 454’s net working capital and net debt on the date of the closing and to secure certain indemnification rights,” according to the filing.
CuraGen said it expects to receive around $86 million in cash before fees, expenses, and transaction costs relating to the merger, $14 million of which has been placed in escrow.
The price paid for 454 was determined through “arms-length negotiations” between Roche Holdings, 454, and CuraGen “following a bidding process facilitated by investment bankers.”
CuraGen also disclosed in the filing that around two thirds of 454’s revenues in 2006, or $25 million, were derived from Roche’s sale of its sequencing instruments under a marketing agreement that the firms signed in 2005.
In connection with the closing of the merger, 454’s board of directors approved a cash award of $400,000 to Christopher McLeod, 454’s president and CEO.

Middle East Biotech Center Plans to Map Date Palm Genome
The Regional Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, plans to map the genome of the date palm, according to the online version of the regional publication Dubai City Guide.
According to the Website, the center’s board yesterday “gave the green signal” to begin feasibility studies for the center’s future projects, and chairman Abdul Rahman Abdul Khaliq said the date palm project will be a good place to start.
The project aims to use the palm’s genomic data to identify and perhaps develop methods to counter diseases that threaten the plant, according to the report.
The research will be conducted at the Date Palm Center at the United Arab Emirates’ university in Al Ain, the Web site said.
The UAE is the word’s fourth largest producer of dates, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Qiagen to Market, Distribute Biomatrica's DNA-Storage Technology
Qiagen said last week that it will market and distribute Biomatrica’s room temperature DNA-storage technology.
Under the agreement, Qiagen will pay Biomatrica an up-front fee, followed by development milestone payments, commission, and royalties.
Biomatrica’s sample-storage system uses its SampleMatrix technology, which forms a protective seal around biomolecules. The samples are accessed through rehydration, the company said.
Biomatrica also offers sample-management software that can be used in low- and high-throughput research, and with biobanks.
Qiagen said the SampleMatrix technology is “highly synergistic” with its own sample-prep technology and is usable with its PCR-based genotyping and molecular testing products, and for comparative genomic studies.
The company said it expects to expand the exclusive agreement in the future to include Biomatrica’s technology to stabilize, ship, and store DNA molecules in blood and buccal-swab samples.

Microsynth to Market Sloning’s Products and Services in Switzerland
Gene-synthesis firm Sloning Biotechnology of Puchheim, Germany, said last week that Swiss biotech Microsynth will exclusively market its Slonomics gene-synthesis service and Slonomax family of mutant libraries in Switzerland.
Microsynth, located east of Zurich in Balgach, Switzerland, offers oligonucleotide synthesis, DNA sequencing, real-time PCR, and genotyping services.

Germany’s Helmholtz Association Launches Systems Biology Initiative
The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers has launched an initiative to study how genomics, proteomics, and other fields can help identify the causes of complex diseases and disorders.
The Helmholtz Association said its Initiative and Networking Fund will spend around €24 million ($32.3 million) on the systems biology initiative through 2011. It said it will also create a network of partners that will invest “similar sums from their own funds.”
The association said the program will systematically study cellular processes “to provide a better understanding of how, for example, cancer or diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems develop."
Specifically, it will study signal transmission processes in cancer cells; molecular bases of neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases; toxin influence on cell metabolism; non-coding RNA in regulatory networks; neuronal structure and function in the brain; and modeling of brain functions.

Report: Russia to Create Genome Data Bank for Criminals
Several news organizations reported last week that Russia’s Interior Ministry has drafted a law to set up a genome data bank to speed searches for criminals in the country.
Russian newspaper Kommersant cited medical experts saying the ministry’s plans posed a threat for “biological security,” but also reported that the law, if adopted, is designed to fight not only standard crime but terrorism and “extremism,” and would simplify the task of identifying bodies via DNA analysis.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.