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Helicos, Reveo, 454, RainDance Technologies, Malaysian Genomics Resource Center, NCI, NIH, Finnzymes, Sage Science, GE Healthcare, NorDiag, MultiGen

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Helicos Expects to Gain $67.8M from IPO; Market Cap to Reach $287M
 
Helicos BioSciences expects to receive approximately $67.8 million in net proceeds from its initial public offering, based on an offering price of $14 per share, the midpoint of the price range it anticipates, the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.
 
The company said in the filing it will offer 5.4 million shares of its common stock at a price it expects to range between $13 and $15 per share.
 
Helicos said that following the offering, it will have approximately 20.52 million shares of common stock outstanding. Assuming an offering price of $14 per share, this would give the company a market capitalization of $287 million and make it the only publicly traded pure-play next-generation sequencing company.
 
Solexa, another next-gen sequencing company, had a market capitalization of $354 million in early November of 2006, shortly before Illumina announced its plan to acquire the company. Illumina closed the $618.5 million acquisition in January.
 
Helicos plans to trade on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol “HLCS.”
 
In a separate filing with the SEC in late April, Helicos disclosed it has signed a non-exclusive agreement with PerkinElmer in April to license certain patents protecting “nucleotide analog products” for use with its sequencing instruments.
 
According to the filing, the license gives Helicos the right to sell the nucleotide analogs for use with its instruments.
 
Financial details of the royalty-bearing agreement and the details of the nucleotide analogs were not disclosed in the filing.
 

 
Reveo Joins Genomics X Prize Race; Aims to Sequence Genome, Proteome, and Epigenome 'for Pennies in Minutes'
 
Reveo has joined the Archon X Prize for Genomics race for genome sequencing, the X Prize Foundation said last week.
 
The company, base in Elmsford, NY, focuses on incubating, developing, and spinning out a variety of technology companies. Its offspring include technologies used in genomics, medical imaging, water desalinization, fuel cells, and optical communications.
 
According to the X Prize Foundation, the device Reveo plans to use in the Archon X race is the Omni Molecular Recognizer Application, which uses principles from semiconductor electronics and photonics "rather than indirect chemical methods to read the DNA sequence directly."
 
Reveo CEO Sadeg Faris said the biggest challenge his team will confront is fabricating nano-knife edges, which he said has not been done, at least according to published literature.
 
The company said it plans to use arrays of nano-knife-edge probes to "directly and non-destructively" read the human gene sequence.
 
Reveo is also developing a portable device to identify animals and plants in the field by sequencing short stretches of DNA, in collaboration with a researcher at the University of Washington under a $1.6 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (see GenomeWeb News, In Sequence’s sister publication, 05/15/2006).
 
The X Prize Foundation launched the Archon X Prize for Genomics last fall. It is offering $10 million to the first team that can sequence 100 human genomes with 99.999-percent accuracy in 10 days for no more than $10,000 per genome.
 
Faris believes Reveo's concept can "accomplish and even surpass" the X Prize's requirements, and can "read an entire human genome, epigenome, and proteome simultaneously in minutes for pennies per genome."
 
Several industry players have already entered the X Prize quest, including VisiGen Biotechnologies, 454 Life Sciences, and the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
 

 
454's Rothberg Targets the 'Personal Laboratory;' Startup RainDance Raises $23.7M
 
With Roche’s acquisition of 454 Life Sciences expected to close this quarter, CuraGen and 454 founder and former chairman Jonathan Rothberg isn’t wasting any time with his latest entrepreneurial venture.
 
RainDance Technologies, a lab-on-a-chip startup Rothberg co-founded in 2004, recently raised $23.7 million in first-round venture financing and plans to deliver the first version of its platform to customers later this year.
 
In a keynote last week at Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s Bio-IT World conference in Boston, Rothberg said that the RainDance platform, called the Personal Laboratory System, is a “generalization” of a technology originally developed for the 454 sequencing platform: micron-sized droplets that capture and amplify DNA.
 
Rothberg said that the RainDance platform takes the droplet idea and moves it to a “universal” microfluidic chip that “does a lot more than sequence.”
 
According to Rothberg, who is also a RainDance director, the droplets are self-contained compartments that encapsulate biological samples using surfactant chemistry.
 
They float in a biocompatible oil that separates them while ensuring that the cells they contain remain alive. The droplets move through microfluidic channels that are preconfigured to enable a range of common laboratory tasks, such as formulate, load, combine, split, mix, store, detect, and so on.
 
These individual modules are assembled into so-called NanoReactors to perform specific experiments, including fluorescence detection, cell sorting, sample prep for DNA sequencing, drug screening, chemical synthesis, and more, Rothberg said.
 
In a proof-of-concept study, the technology was able to prepare an entire bacterial genome for sequencing, he said.
 
RainDance’s goal is to enable the same kinds of advances for laboratory research that the personal computer and the Internet did for information technology, Rothberg said, describing the droplets as “packets of chemicals” that are analogous to the “packets” of information that are transferred today over the web.
 
Rothberg acknowledged that lab-on-a-chip technologies have been in development for around 30 years and have yet to see commercial success, but he noted that most microfluidics systems to date have taken a different approach that relies on micromechanical valves to separate fluids rather than discrete droplets. This approach, he said, is more difficult to fabricate because of the complex valve mechanisms, and also raises the risk of contamination when different samples are run through the same channel.
 
The main advantage of the Personal Laboratory System over previous lab-on-a-chip systems, Rothberg said, is the droplet-based approach, which ensures that the sample materials never touch the walls of the microfluidic channels and eliminates the risk of contamination. This capability makes the technology a good candidate for diagnostic applications, he said.
 
The NanoReactors are manufactured using injection molding, which could eventually cost as little as $1 per chip, he said. RainDance is currently hand-molding its prototype chips at a cost of $20 to $100 per chip.
 
Rothberg said that RainDance has received a milestone payment from Novozymes for a proof-of-concept project to use the PLS platform to improve enzymes for laundry detergent. In the project, he said, PLS was able to characterize bacterial strains at a rate of 1,000 per second.   
 
The company is also collaborating with Bayer to port several high-throughput screening assays to the PLS platform, he said.
 
The company expects to begin delivering systems to early-access customers later this year and to fully commercialize the platform in 2008.
 

 
454, Malaysian Genomics Research Center Team on Sequencing Projects
 
The Malaysian Genomics Resource Center will use 454 Life Sciences’ GS FLX sequencer in genomics and bioinformatics projects studying tropical diseases and organisms, 454 said this week. 
 
454 said it will work with the MGRC on a number of "high-profile" projects with the Malaysian academic community.
 
The company said these projects include sequencing microbes with biotechnological and medical applications, as well as large-scale characterization of diseases that are prevalent in Malaysia and the surrounding region.
 
"Malaysia is investing significant resources in establishing itself as a regional hub for biotechnology research and industrialization," 454 President and CEO Christopher McLeod said in a statement.
 
By working with the MGRC, 454 aims to realize the “full potential of genomics in Malaysia,” McLeod said.
 
The MGRC is supported by the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, which operates under the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.
 
A 454 spokeswoman declined to comment on whether 454 will install a GS FLX at the MGRC, or perform sequencing services at its own facility.
 

 
NCI Seeks Additional Licensees for ‘Two Dye’ Sequencing Method
 
The National Cancer Institute is seeking “co-exclusive” licensees for a single-molecule DNA sequencing method called Two Dye Sequencing that is based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer, according to the NIH’s Office of Technology Transfer.
 
The method, developed by NCI researchers Thomas Schneider and Denise Rubens, is protected by US Patent No. 6,982,146, “High speed parallel molecular nucleic acid sequencing.”
 
Next-gen sequencing developer VisiGen has licensed the technology (see feature article in this issue [LINK: tktk]), but CEO Susan Hardin told In Sequence this week that “a difference in the technologies is the location of the nucleotide label.”
 
In the NCI method, a nucleic acid molecule to be sequenced is exposed to a polymerase that carries a donor fluorophore, and each type of nucleotide carries a distinguishable acceptor fluorophore characteristic of the particular type of nucleotide. As the polymerase incorporates individual nucleic acid molecules into a complementary strand, a laser irradiates the donor fluorophore at a wavelength that causes it to emit a signal that is associated with the type of nucleotide added to the complementary strand.
 
More information about the technology is available here.
 

 
NIH To Out-License Technology for Identifying Indels
 
The National Institutes of Health is seeking licensees for methods to identify genomic insertions and deletions and to determine their biological effects, according to the NIH’s Office of Technology Transfer. 
 
The technology relies on bioinformatic tools and high-throughput methods to identify indels, as well as new assays to distinguish genomic sequences by genotyping.
 
It includes a new bioinformatics software tool for identifying dimorphisms and creating a searchable database containing sites of dimorphisms and information regarding functional effects of dimorphisms. It also includes high-throughput PCR-based methods to identify dimorphic repetitive elements from any eukaryotic genome including individual tissue specimens, as well as methods for determining the functional consequences of indels.
 
The method was invented by David Symer and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute and protected by US provisional application No. 60/841,089, filed August 29, 2006.
 
More information about the technology is available here.
 

 
Finnzymes and Sage Science to Develop Tools for Analysis of PCR and qPCR Apps
 
Finnzymes Instruments last week said it plans to work with Sage Science to develop a line of programmable instruments to be used in upstream and downstream analysis of PCR and qPCR applications.
 
Finnzymes vice president of operations Mike Mortillaro said the company expects the new line of products will complement Finnzymes’ line of thermal cyclers and its expected real-time PCR instruments.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
 

 
GE Healthcare Licenses Nucleic Acid-Separation IP to NorDiag
 
GE Healthcare will license certain of its patents for biomagnetic nucleic-acid isolation to screening and diagnostics company NorDiag, GE Healthcare said last week.
 
GE Healthcare said the technology differs from conventional nucleic acid-isolation techniques because the increased yield of nucleic acids it can isolate from disease-causing pathogens enables diagnosis with smaller-volume patient samples.
 
NorDiag CEO Mårten Wigstøl said the license will enable the company to “widen [its] portfolio of products for clinical diagnostics,” and show shareholders that the company can “bring in technologies from large players such as GE Healthcare.”
 

 
MultiGen Installs Franek’s Laboratory Power Protection System to Protect Sequencer
 
MultiGen Diagnostics has installed a battery backup power system from Franek Technologies in its DNA sequencing laboratory, Franek said last week.
 
The MultiGen facility uses Applied Biosystems 3130 Genetic Analyzers.
 
Franek said it installed a category III-3 power protection and back-up system in the lab.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.