Two Roche Applied Science companies, NimbleGen and 454 Life Sciences have developed new technologies to resequence all human exons from individual genomes. This new discovery will help science take a giant step towards personalized medicine and other discoveries. Because of this, researchers will now be able to see the genetic variations within the exome of any human being.
In essence, what this means is that in the not too distant future, researchers will be able to discover the functional variations that are responsible for a host of diseases ranging from cancer and Alzheimers disease to Huntington’s Disease and Cystic Fibrosis.
NimbleGen’s contribution was their launching of the Sequence Capture 2.1M Human Exome Microarrays, built on the HD2 platform, that allows researchers to capture all exons in the genome.
The contribution by 454 Life Sciences consisted of their Genome Sequencer FLX System.
With the two products now combined, researchers can now assess genetic variations in the exome of any human being. As the 454 Life Sciences press release states, “Human exome sequencing is considered by many researchers to be the ‘Holy Grail’ for resequencing that will lead to significant biomedical breakthroughs.”
We recently wrote an article on the upcoming Clinical Trial for Geron Corps stem cell therapy for spinal injury, which will probably catch the public eye in the not too distant future. That trial is indeed potentially going to be a gigantic step forward, and will deserve the public accolades it will get. But the NimbleGen/454 Life Sciences project will most likely be almost as important, but will probably end up toiling more quietly in the background, understood only by the scientists and researchers who are using it.
Our hats off to the geniuses who created it.
Take that, ABI!
I just took a quick peek at Abbotts recently released financial numbers for last year. Outstanding.
They report double-digit growth in both sales and earnings for 2008. They are also predicting a very strong earnings outlook for FY 2009 as well.
Overall Worldwide sales were up 10.1%. Adjusted earnings per share was up 14%. They had double digit sales growth in each major business line last year. They ended 2008 with 9 new major Regulatory Approvals. A breakdown of total sales was as follows: Total US sales up 8.9%, but International Sales up a whopping 20.3%. Broken down by product mix, Nutritional sales up 12.2%, Diagnostics up by 13.2%, Vascular up by 34.7% and Misc other sales up 0.3%. Pretty healthy numbers.
They also state that their pharmaceutical pipeline has increased in size, novelty and number of phase transitions. In 2008 Phase I and Phase II trial initiations were nearly double 2007 levels.
As a result of all this good news, the company declared a new quarterly dividend of 36 cents per share, an increase of 10.8% over the previous year. This marks the 340th consecutive dividend paid by Abbott since 1924.
Despite all this good news, their stock has not been spectacular of late. In mid-September the stock peaked at $59.81, and at the worst of the crash in early October they were down to a low of $49.45, a drop of about 17%, which when compared to the rest of the stock market wasn’t that terribly bad. After the low the stock started climbing again, getting up to $55.99 a couple weeks later, then after closing at a high of $56.57 on November 18, two days later on November 20, the stock dropped over 5 points in a single day, to $50.35 and has trended slightly downward since. In the few days since their new fiscal numbers have come out, the stock has done pretty well again. Last Wednesday the stock closed at $49.22. At the end of the day on Friday, the stock had risen to $52.81, a gain of about 7.3%. Not bad for two days work.
But if you are considering investing in them, you would need to check out why the big drop of over 5 points on November 20. I would assume some kind of bad news came out that day. But if the problem that caused that drop is behind them, then it could be clear sailing for Abbott.
It certainly sounds as though Abbott is poised for a good year in 2009. However, before investing in Abbott stock, check with a trusted financial investor first.
Back on January 11, I had written an article on Geron Corp and the possiblilty that the FDA would give them the OK to begin clinical trials. In the article I had mentioned that Geron would be a good company to invest in, but that I didn’t expect the FDA to rush things along. Well, I was right about Geron being a good investment, but I was way off on the timing.
On Friday, January 23, Geron Corp was approved by the FDA to start the world’s first trial of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells. They had developed these nerve progenitor cells as a potential treatment for spinal injury.
This early stage trial is not designed to have immediate success. Nobody is expecting the patients to jump out of their wheelchairs and start running marathons. Instead, Geron will be injecting small amounts of the cells into the spinal cords of about 10 recently injured patients whose nerve damage is severe enough to cause paralysis in the lower half of the body.
The Trial Investigators will be looking for things like infections, cancerous growth and immune system rejection. They will also be watching for signs of improvement, such as a return of any feeling to the lower extremity of the body such as the toes or legs, or an improvement in bowel and bladder control. If signs of improvement were to be much greater than expected, Geron would try to move the treatment through clinical trials much more rapidly.
As you might imagine, Geron stock went for quite a ride on Friday. It had closed at $5.21 per share at the end of the trading day on Thursday. Friday morning it immediatly screamed upward and peaked at $8.17 per share just before lunchtime, a gain of almost 57%. After lunch the stock settled down a bit and closed the day at $7.09, still up 36% for the day. If only I had taken my own advice and bought the stock on the 11th when I was writing about it. But I had never dreamed the FDA would have moved so quickly.
Anacor Pharmaceuticals, based out of Palo Alto, California announced that they have raised $50 million through a preferred stock financing. Participating in the stock financing were two large pharmaceutical companies, GSK and Schering, plus some smaller investors.
Anacor does small molecule therapeutics that are derived from their boron chemistry platform. Useful applications of their compounds are for fungal, bacterial and inflamatory diseases.
I did a quick look around their website and currently they have only one position on it that they are hiring for, but with $50 million dollars coming in, I would expect they will soon be doing some more hiring and purchasing more research equipment.
If there are any sales reps or others who would like to connect with the movers and shakers at Anacor, I did a quick search of my database and have over 40 names of people there, ranging from the HR department to several VP’s, directors and scientists. Always happy to help someone out.
As a life science recruiter with over 20 years experience, I have always enjoyed working with startups. I am constantly on the prowl for new companies. Many of the startups that I was working with 5 or 10 years ago are now rapidly growing mid-sized clients of mine. So if you hear of any new ones out there, please let me know. And in the spirit of cooperation, following is some information on startups that might be helpful for some of the readers of this blog.
The Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon was involved in 4 start-ups in 2008.
Cascade LifeSciences is using technologies licensed from OHSU that might lead to therapeutic stem cell products for a wide array of human diseases. It involves novel ways to reprogram primate skin cells into embryonic stem cells. The methods are somatic cell nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis. In theory they will produce embryonic stem cells genetically matched to individual patients. Cascade is based in San Diego.
Flash Sensor Technology, based in Tigard, Oregon is a spinoff from Virogenomics, which was originally an OHSU startup. They are developing biosensors capable of providing instantaneous point-of-care diagnoses using disease markers. The founders work on cell signaling interactions forms the basis of the company’s lab-on-a-chip technology.
Genefac, Inc. is focusing on development and commercialization of a technology to detect the activity of multiple transcription factors–proteins that read and sequence genetic instructions in DNA. They use small DNA probes containing a unique binding sequence of DNA called a motif. They plan to market the technology as a test to ID in cancer biopsies the precise molecular profile of a patient’s cancer which of course can lead to real personalized medicine. They are an Oregon based company.
Transmed Oncology is an Arizona based biotech company. They have optioned two novel cancer therapeutics from OHSU. The first is a synthetic peptide called a bombesin receptor antagonist, which may be useful in supressing the growth of malignant cells in a wide variety of cancers. The second is a small molecule chemotherapeutic which has potential as a treatment for prostate cancer.
If you have interest in finding out more about these companies, feel free to call or email us and we will tell you what we know. In our database we do have the names of their founders, executives and some of their employees.
According to documents received by the SEC, Galleon has received $15 million in financing. Galleon is involved in respiratory therapeutics used for breathing problems such as sleep apnea, ventilator weaning, COPD and obesity-hyperventilation syndrome. They are based out of Horsham, Pennsylvania.
We know very little about them, so I would assume they are a start-up or a near start-up. We called the number on their website in an attempt to connect with upper management to find out more detailed information, but the number on their website is only for their office manager, and she will not be back until January 5. Their website also has the look of a start-up.
Since they have just received a significant amount of funding, I would suspect they might be a good company for people to connect with if they have wares to sell or are looking for a job and willing to take a flyer on a start-up.
In our database we have the names of their 4 top Executives/Managers and three of their scientists and of course their office manager. If you wish to contact them, feel free to call or email us and as a courtesy we will give you the contact information.
ArQule, Inc in Woburn, Massachusetts announced today that they have signed a License, Co-Development and Co-Commercialization Agreement with Daiichi Sankyo Company to co-develop ARQ 197, the company’s selective c-Met inhibitor world-wide, excluding Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan.
They also announced the expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Roding Anti-Trust Improvement Act of 1976, thereby permitting consummation of the collaboration, which includes ArQule receiving a $60 million dollar cash up-front licensing payment from Daiichi Sankyo.
Trana Discovery, mentioned in the previous article on this blog as one of the companies in NC receiving funding by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has a success already.
The company, while working in collaboration with Birmingham’s Southern Research Institute, has developed a high-speed screening process to ID new compounds for treating the virus that causes AIDS.
Pharmaceutical companies will be able to screen vast libraries of compounds to ID those that interrupt the life cycle of HIV. The company says the technology has the potential to discover new classes of medicines for the treatment of HIV that may become resistant to current therapies.
Trana used detectors and data processing software available through a robotic procedure at the Southern Research Institute that allowed them to conduct millions of tests to identify active compounds.
This new process will allow 50,000 compounds to be screened per day.
You can check out a PDF document on the Trana HIV 201 HTS Assay on their website at:
The companies receiving the money include:
- Exigent Pharmaceuticals of Durham, who received $250,000 to develop compounds to stop the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
- MastCell Pharmaceuticals of Raleigh, who received $203,000 to develop their therapies for gastrointestinal allergic reactions.
- Molecular Orthopaedics of Chapel Hill, who received $350,000 to develop a gene therapy treatment for osteoarthritis.
- Trana Discovery of Cary, who received $250,000 to develop drug-discovery technology that could help find antibacterial drugs.
- FirstString Research of RTP, who received a $250,000 loan to help in the development of drugs that could aid in the healing of wounds.
These are not large amounts of money of course, nor are they large companies, but it is nice to see there are still some sources of funding for the little guy. And the little guy of today may be the GSK of tomorrow.
Just checked out the Kineta Corp website. This is a good looking new startup because it appears to be very well funded and has an upper management with a strong pedigree. Following is a press release from them.
Two scientific pioneers in human immunity announced the formation of their third biotechnology business enterprise: Kineta Inc., based in Seattle.
Through this new venture, Drs. Shawn Iadonato and Charles Magness are dedicated to advancing new classes of therapies to enhance and modulate the immune system for the treatment of viral and autoimmune diseases.
Kineta is further strengthened by globally renowned scientific founders Drs. Michael Gale Jr. and Michael G. Katze. “They are two of the world’s leading academic experts on innate immunity. We are honored to have them on the Kineta team,” said Dr. Iadonato. Dr. Gale’s lab is credited with defining the retinoic acid-inducible gene (RIG-I) as the major receptor that triggers immunity against Hepatitis C and other viruses.
Drs. Iadonato and Magness are building Kineta upon previous success. Their last company, Illumigen Biosciences, Inc., produced the discovery of a “wellness gene” that was proven to protect carriers from contracting Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Additional research led to a breakthrough drug with the potential to fight HCV infection by enhancing immunity. In December 2007, Illumigen Biosciences was acquired by Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in an agreement that could ultimately be a $340 million transaction.