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Bio-Rad Shutters Former GnuBio Facility as Part of Digital Biology R&D Consolidation

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Bio-Rad Laboratories is closing its Digital Biology Center Cambridge (DBCC), formerly GnuBio, a research and development facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, GenomeWeb has learned.

A Bio-Rad spokesperson said the company decided to consolidate the center's R&D activities into its Digital Biology Group in Pleasanton, California.

She declined to comment on the number of employees laid off as a result but said there will be "some restructuring." It has not yet been determined how many DBCC staff members will join the California group, she added. According to a former DBCC employee, the center had grown to more than 170 staffers, from about 60 at the time of Bio-Rad's acquisition of GnuBio.

According to the spokesperson, the company is turning its focus on liquid biopsy opportunities for its droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) platform. Many researchers worldwide have already adopted that platform, she said, and Bio-Rad has a market-leading position in this area.

She declined to say whether this new focus means Bio-Rad no longer plans to commercialize the droplet-based sequencing platform GnuBio was developing.

Bio-Rad acquired GnuBio in April 2014 for $39.7 million in cash and $10 million in contingent payments for development and regulatory milestones.

At the time, Bio-Rad said that contingent consideration could reach $70 million if all development, regulatory, and sales milestones were achieved. The company said earlier this year that in 2016, it "fully impaired" goodwill and in-process research and development expenses of $13.5 million and $46.4 million, respectively, that were associated with the acquisition of GnuBio. Those impairments, it said, were based on a revision of the expected future cash flows.

GnuBio had been developing a droplet-based platform for targeted next-generation sequencing, which used a pico-injector technology developed by co-founder David Weitz at Harvard University.

Following the acquisition, Bio-Rad said that it planned to commercialize the sequencing technology within several years for clinical diagnostics, initially in the areas of oncology, HLA testing, and infectious diseases. At the time, Bio-Rad officials said the droplet-based sequencing platform would complement its own droplet digital PCR technology. However, the company has revealed little about the development of the sequencing platform since 2014.

Earlier this year, Bio-Rad acquired another company with expertise in droplet-based PCR, RainDance Technologies, for approximately $76.6 million, including $72.8 million in cash. Bio-Rad also made an additional $10 million cash payment for a one-time expense associated with the acquisition.

The spokesperson said Bio-Rad is not planning to downsize or close the RainDance facility in Billerica, Massachusetts, as part of the consolidation of digital biology R&D.