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Celera, Applied Biosystems, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Agencourt Bioscience, SeqWright, GATC Biotech, Sistemas Genomicos, NIH, Helicos BioSciences, Microchip Biotechnologies

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Celera Plans Sequencing-Based Diagnostics; Decision on Split with ABI Could Come By End of Quarter
 
Celera is working on a next-generation diagnostics instrument based on ABI’s sequencing technologies, according to Kathy Ordoñez, the company’s president.
 
Ordoñez made the remark during a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week.
 
She also mentioned that Applied Biosystems and Celera will likely split into two independently operated companies. Although a final decision has not yet been reached, Applera’s board of directors recently stated its preference that the sister companies be split into two independent entities rather than remaining tracking stocks of Applera.
 
If Applera pursues this option, Ordoñez said that the company’s goal would be to finalize the split by the end of its current fiscal year, which ends June 30. It would file a registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission by the end of the current quarter, she said.
 
She said that Celera could not have achieved its current position in the market without Applera’s financial backing and the help of Applied Biosystems’ technologies. “We’re grown up now and prepared to go out on our own,” Ordoñez said, pointing to Celera’s guidance that it will be profitable for the second half of 2008.
 
She added that Celera’s management is “excited about the prospect” of being independent.
 
— Abridged version of a report by Edward Winnick, Managing Editor, GenomeWeb Daily News
 

 
Sanger Owns ABI SOLiD, 454, ‘Close to’ 30 Illumina GA’s
 
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has “close to” 30 Illumina Genome Analyzers installed, as well as several ABI SOLiD and 454 GS FLX instruments, according to a senior scientist at the institute.
 
Tim Hubbard, who leads the Sanger’s informatics team and heads its human genome-analysis group, mentioned the institute’s next-generation sequencing equipment in a recent interview with BioInform, In Sequence’s sister publication.
 
“We’ve made a real major commitment in this [area of next-gen sequencing],” he said in the conversation.
 
For the entire interview, click here.
 

 
ABI Launches Service Provider Program for SOLiD; Agencourt, SeqWright, GATC Biotech, Sistemas are First Partners
 
Applied Biosystems said this week that it has kicked off a service provider program for its SOLiD next-generation sequencing platform.
 
Initial members of the program include Agencourt Bioscience and SeqWright in the US, Germany’s GATC Biotech, and Spain’s Sistemas Genomicos.
 
These firms will offer a range of services, including high-throughput genetic analysis, protocol assistance, and data storage and analysis, ABI said.
 
ABI added that the service providers will use the SOLiD system to conduct a variety of applications, including whole-genome sequencing, chromatin immunoprecipitation, microbial and eukaryotic resequencing, digital karyotyping, medical sequencing, genotyping, gene expression, and small RNA discovery.
 
The company said it is supporting the program by providing “technical and marketing support,” but did not provide further details.
 

 
NIH To Award Up To $12M for Genome-Wide Resequencing 'Pipeline'
 
The National Institutes of Health plans to award up to $12 million over two years to develop a resequencing technology “pipeline” for genome-wide medical research.
 
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute plan to award between three and four grants under the program, according to a request for applications released last week.
 
The goal of the program is to “develop and validate a resequencing application for cost-effective, high-throughput sequencing of genome-wide medical targets by assembling current and emerging technologies in the areas of DNA target capture and sequencing,” NIH said in the RFA.
 
The aim of the resequencing application “is to enable the sequencing of thousands of individual DNA samples in NHLBI’s well-phenotyped populations in a cost-effective manner.”
 
This “resequencing pipeline” could lower the cost of sequencing one percent of the genome to around $1,000, NIH said.
 
The targets for the sequencing programs are exons of the 20,000 protein-coding genes that are identified as RefSeq genes in the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Entrez Gene database, which make up around 1 to 2 percent of the human genome.
 
These targets also could include other functional units such as microRNA and regulatory elements, NIH said.
 
Applications are due Feb. 28, and more information is available here.
 

 
Helicos Inks $20M Credit Facility with GE Healthcare
 
Helicos BioSciences will use a $20 million senior secured credit facility from GE Healthcare Financial Services to shore up its working capital and to fund commercialization efforts, the company said last week.
 
The company received an initial $10 million under the facility on Dec. 31, and it will be able to draw down the remaining $10 million through the end of June. The first $10 million will be amortized over 36 months, and Helicos will owe interest-only payments over the initial 12 months.
 
Helicos CEO Steve Lombardi said in a statement that the loan will allow the company to “scale up our manufacturing and build inventory to meet customer demand in 2008 and beyond.” The firm expects to soon launch its HeliScope next-generation sequencing instrument.
 
As of Sept. 30, the company had $54.9 million in cash and cash equivalents. In November, Helicos said it expected to end the year with at least $40 million of cash in the bank.
 

 
Microchip Biotechnologies Selected for Army SBIR Program
 
The US Army has selected Microchip Biotechnologies to participate in its inaugural Commercialization Pilot Program, the company said last week.
 
MBI has been developing a biothreat detection system through small business innovation research funding from the Army.
 
The Army’s new program is focused on identifying SBIR firms with Phase II projects that may “meet high-priority Army requirements,” the company said. However, it did not say how much funding is associated with its participation in the program. MBI said it is one of 25 firms selected for the program out of an applicant pool of 416 firms.
 
MBI, based in Dublin, Calif., has been developing its Apollo next-generation fluidics platform, which integrates microfluidic sample preparation and analytical capabilities for DNA sequencing, biodefense, forensics, and molecular diagnostics applications.

The Scan

Dropped Charges

The US Justice Department has dropped visa fraud charges against five Chinese researchers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More Kids

The Associated Press says Moderna is expanding its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine study to included additional children and may include even younger children.

PNAS Papers on Rat Clues to Human Migration, Thyroid Cancer, PolyG-DS

In PNAS this week: ancient rat genome analysis gives hints to human migrations, WDR77 gene mutations in thyroid cancer, and more.

Purnell Choppin Dies

Purnell Choppin, a virologist who led the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has died at 91, according to the Washington Post.