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Helicos Cuts Price of Sequencer by 25 Percent, Obtains Third Order

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Helicos BioSciences has reduced the price of its single-molecule Helicos Genetic Analysis sequencing system by about 25 percent to $999,000, company officials said at the JPMorgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco today.

The company has also received its third order for the instrument from the University of Maryland, according to the officials.

In terms of attracting new customers, Helicos will "at least initially" narrow its focus on cancer centers, according to CEO Ron Lowy, who took the helm of the firm in December. "We feel like they are in the best position, in the short run, to take advantage of the technology and the capabilities that are there," he said.

In a Q&A session following his presentation, which was webcast, he added that these centers will likely be not as affected by the current economic recession as other potential customers, such as pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Lowy told conference attendees that the company, which raised $18.6 million in a private placement of shares in December, paid off $13 million of its $20 million GE loan facility and ended the year with $20 million in cash.

Based on its current burn rate, this will support the firm through 2010, he said, and Helicos expects to approach cash-flow breakeven in early 2010. "We have enough money to do what we need to do," according to Lowy.

Helicos shipped its first instrument to a customer, service provider Expression Analysis, last March. In October, the company shipped another instrument to Stanford University, and in December, it said it will place an instrument at no cost at the Broad Institute, which Lowy said will be installed by the end of the month.

According to Lowy, the instruments at its customer sites are now beginning to deliver performance similar to Helicos' in-house systems. "That's been one of the real issues at Helicos, is that we see this wonderful performance in-house, and now we are starting to see that with the systems that we delivered to the field," he said.

Edward Winnick contributed reporting for this article from the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

A more comprehensive version of this article is available in GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication In Sequence.

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