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Susan Strong, Randy Engler, and Doug Rau, GE Healthcare, Applied Biosystems, Agilent Technologies, Bruker AXS and Roentec, NHGRI, and Venter Institute


Fisher subsidiary Dharmacon has hired Susan Strong as vice president of marketing. Strong most recently worked as an independent consultant, primarily for the US branch of Swiss bioinformatics firm GeneData. Prior to that, she was vice president for sales and marketing at Genomica. She has also served as vice president of marketing for Dionex, and held various marketing and field positions for 14 years at Hewlett-Packard. Strong holds an MS in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina.

Randy Engler has joined WaveSense as vice president of sales and marketing. Engler joins the firm from Thermo Electron, where he was business manager for laboratory automation.

Sigma-Aldrich has named Doug Rau as its vice president of human resources. Rau most recently served as vice president of human resources at Kellwood, an apparel company. He also served as Kellwood's director of training and development for five years. Rau holds an MBA degree from Saint Louis University and a BA in business administration from the University of Missouri, Columbia.


BioCommerce Briefs

GE Healthcare Revenue Rises 7 Percent in Q3

GE Healthcare last week reported revenue of $3.6 billion for its third quarter ended Sept. 30, a 7 percent increase over revenue of $3.3 billion in the third quarter last year.

GE said total orders for GE Healthcare's Q3 were up 8 percent year over year. The services part of the unit reported 9 percent growth to $1.4 million, and the equipment part of the unit posted 7 percent growth to roughly $2.3 billion.

The healthcare unit of the conglomerate posted a quarterly profit of $589 million, a 17 percent increase year over year.

Overall, parent company GE posted revenue of $41.9 billion for the quarter, a 9 percent increase over revenue of $38.3 billion in the comparable quarter a year ago. The firm also reported net earnings of $4.7 billion, up 15 percent from $4.1 billion in the third quarter of 2004.

GE pointed out that all six of its business units — Healthcare, Infrastructure, Commercial Finance, Consumer Finance, Industrial, and NBC Universal — delivered double-digit earnings growth.

JP Morgan Downgrades ABI's Shares

Investment bank JP Morgan last week cut its outlook for Applied Biosystems for having "modest" revenue projections and other reasons.

JP Morgan cut ABI's shares to "underweight" from "neutral," citing valuation and the lack of catalysts. The bank "told clients its concerns include the modest top-line growth projections, a lack of near-term uses of cash and the absence of visible near-term catalysts."

The downgrade had virtually no impact on ABI's shares.

Agilent Semiconductor Unit Sale Delayed to December

Agilent Technologies said last week that it expects to close the sale of its semiconductor operations to private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Silver Lake Partners "on or near" Dec. 1, which is later than originally planned.

When Agilent announced the sale in August, it said the deal would close by Oct. 31. Agilent did not mention the delay in a statement yesterday, but it said that the "target closing date is timed to position the companies to provide a seamless transition for customers, suppliers and employees in the 19 countries in which SPG operates."

Agilent is selling its chip unit to the buyout firms, which will be equal partners in the venture, for $2.66 billion. Kohlberg and Silver Lake said at the time that their purchase will create the world's largest privately held independent semiconductor company.

Agilent previously said it plans to use proceeds from the deal for a $4 billion share repurchase program.

Bruker AXS to Acquire X-ray Microanalysis Tool Shop Roentec

Stepping into a new market, Bruker AXS last week said it plans to acquire Roentec, a German X-ray microanalysis instrument company for an undisclosed amount.

Privately held Roentec, based in Berlin, generates between $6 million and $7 million in annual revenues, Bruker said. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Bruker claims the worldwide X-ray microanalysis market to be north of $150 million and said it "has not participated" in it. Typical applications of X-ray microanalysis include nanotechnology and "advanced materials research."

Selling its products "primarily" in Europe, Roentec's X-ray microanalysis products are sold with detector technology, acquisition electronics, and analysis and quantification software. The company also sells mobile systems for the X-ray elemental microanalysis of works of art, as well as transportable "Total X-ray Reflection" systems for elemental trace analysis in liquids, according to Bruker.

Roentec CEO Thomas Schuelein said in a statement last week that Bruker's global distribution muscle "can ... enhance the revenue growth" for the company's mobile microXRF and TXRF systems.

Frank Burgaezy, executive vice president at Bruker AXS, agreed, saying in the statement that Roentec, though it has "a strong customer base in certain geographical markets, ... has been distribution-limited and at a size disadvantage relative to its larger competitors."

According to Bruker, the X-ray microanalysis market comprises X-ray accessories for scanning and transmission-electron microscopes and stand-alone micro-X-ray fluorescence spectrometers.

Though Bruker AXS plays in the X-ray diffraction space for advanced materials and nanotechnology research, in X-ray single crystal diffraction for small molecule and protein 3D structural analysis, and in X-ray fluorescence elemental analysis for a variety of materials-analysis and quality-control applications, the company has not participated in X-ray microanalysis, which it calls a "fourth important" X-ray analysis market.

News of the acquisition comes almost exactly two months after Bruker AXS said it would buy French X-ray analysis-software company Socabim for an undisclosed sum.

As GenomeWeb News reported in August, Socabim has already been providing software for X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence materials analysis to Bruker AXS. Bruker plans to merge Socabim with its own French subsidiary near Paris.

Socabim employees are expected to remain with the company following the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2006.

"We believe that with the addition of the Socabim technology and R&D team, our products can accelerate their 'time-to-market,' and our X-ray systems for advanced research and process analysis [...] will be even more powerful and user-friendly," Frank Burgazy, managing director of Bruker AXS and president of the French subsidiary, said in a statement.

NHGRI Earmarks Portion of Sequencing Capacity for Medical Sequencing Efforts

The National Human Genome Research Institute said this week that it will devote a portion of its large-scale sequencing capacity to medical sequencing efforts focused on identifying the genetic causes of specific diseases.

According to the NHGRI, the highest priority projects will be those involving "large-scale sequencing over the next few years to identify the genes responsible for dozens of relatively rare, single-gene diseases; [sequencing of] all of the genes on the X chromosome from affected individuals to identify those involved in sex-linked diseases; and [surveying] the range of variants in genes known to contribute to some common diseases."

The NHGRI added that "the launch of each project will depend on a number of factors, including the strategic selection of specific diseases and the availability of patient samples with appropriate informed consent."

However, the first project is expected to begin in the next 12 months and be a "demonstration project to find the genetic variations responsible for seven rare, autosomal Mendelian disorders," the institute said. This initial effort is expected to "establish the best procedures for obtaining quality samples, for determining the minimum number of affected and control samples needed, and for deciding how the data will be released to the biomedical research community."

Venter Center Begins Meta-Genomic Sequencing of Manhattan Air; Eyes Emerging Sequencing Platforms

Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute have finished collecting air samples in New York City and have begun sequencing them as part of a $2.5-million meta-genomics pilot study begun in March, an Institute official said this week.

The official, Karin Remington, vice president for bioinformatics research, also said that the Institute would begin looking for ways in which next-generation DNA-sequencing technologies might play a role in this and similar projects. The Venter Institute is currently testing a 454 instrument for other kinds of research, she said.

Remington spoke with BioCommerce Week sister publication GenomeWeb News following her presentation at the first-annual Genomes, Medicine and the Environment conference, held in Hilton Head, S.C., this week. She said preliminary observations showed that most of the organisms floating in the air around Manhattan, at least the air surrounding the SpinCon filters, are bacteria and fungi.

"Assuming all goes well, we want to have an analysis done and published ... within a few month," Remington said.

As GenomeWeb News reported in March, scientists at the Venter Institute plan to sequence all the microorganisms found in air samples taken from within and atop an undisclosed building in midtown Manhattan.

Called the Air Genome Project, the study is funded through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It calls for Venter Institute researchers to capture indoor and outdoor New York City air through filters and sequence DNA found in the samples at the institute's Joint Technology Center.

Though the researchers have collected enough air samples to perform a preliminary analysis, Remington said they may return for additional samples. The systems been removed from their temporary high-rise homes, but, because they are portable, can be repositioned at any time, Remington added.

Once sequenced, the data will be made publicly available and the genome sequences will be released through the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The results may help design systems that detect potentially dangerous biological substances in the air, according to the institute.

Remington said that the Institute has already done "some" sequencing on the preliminary samples and has gained experience from conducting similar research from filter systems placed atop a Venter Institute building in Rockville, Md.

Remington said that "the whole idea" of this project is to identify and develop new technologies and assays that could make this kind of research more efficient and cost-effective. 454's sequencing technology, being sold by Roche, could be a potential collaborator because its technology is already being used by Venter Institute scientists for other projects. Asked if the Institute and 454 plan to pen a formal meta-genomics alliance, Remington said: "[It's] too far out to tell."

She said the Institute has a 454 instrument in one of its labs and that researchers have been testing 454 it "to see whether we can reproduce genomes for ourselves, and we've also been looking how 454 and the much-cheaper sequencing platforms [like it] can be used to fill gaps" in some other in-house projects.

GMEC is organized by the J. Craig Venter Institute. The conference had previously been called the Genome Sequence and Annotation Conference.

The Scan

Myotonic Dystrophy Repeat Detected in Family Genome Sequencing Analysis

While sequencing individuals from a multi-generation family, researchers identified a myotonic dystrophy type 2-related short tandem repeat in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

TB Resistance Insights Gleaned From Genome Sequence, Antimicrobial Response Assays

Researchers in PLOS Biology explore M. tuberculosis resistance with a combination of sequencing and assays looking at the minimum inhibitory concentrations of 13 drugs.

Mendelian Disease Genes Prioritized Using Tissue-Specific Expression Clues

Mendelian gene candidates could be flagged for further functional analyses based on tissue-specific transcriptome and proteome profiles, a new Journal of Human Genetics paper says.

Single-Cell Sequencing Points to Embryo Mosaicism

Mosaicism may affect preimplantation genetic tests for aneuploidy, a single-cell sequencing-based analysis of almost three dozen embryos in PLOS Genetics finds.