A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Labcyte (Sunnyvale, California) reported that it has closed its Series C financing of $21 million with all previous major investors and three new firms participating.

The round was led by Cross Atlantic Partners and included Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management and the Bay Area Equity Fund, a fund managed by JPMorgan, as new investors. Dr. Sandra Panem of Cross Atlantic will join the company's board.

Existing investors Abingworth Management, Alloy Ventures, Delphi Ventures and the Sprout Group also participated in the financing.

Labcyte said it would use the funds for expanding its growing, low-volume liquid-handling business, which is based on a technology for using focused acoustics (ultrasound) to precisely transfer nanoliters of liquid. The company has commercialized this technology in the Echo 550 compound reformatter which transfers library compounds directly into assay plates and eliminates the need for tips, washing and intermediate dilutions.

Six pharmaceutical companies and one "leading university" have purchased the Echo 550, with three companies using multiple systems, Labcyte says, with users reporting "improved transfer results and savings equal to the price of the system in less than one year."

The new investment will be used to market the next Labcyte product, the Echo 380 auditor, and to continue to expand the commercial applications of the company's technology in genomics and proteomics, Labcyte said. It calls the Echo 380 auditor "the first system that enables rapid determination of solution volume and water content in compound collections."

The company also is developing an instrument for preparing tissue samples for quantitative imaging by MALDI mass spectrometry, a technique that provides information about the spatial distribution of proteins in a tissue and has applications in toxicology, basic research and pathology.

Labcyte also said it expects to deploy its acoustic technologies in genomics and proteomics by developing systems for small volume expression and mutation assays.

"We are very pleased to bring additional high quality investors into Labcyte and anticipate their assistance in the accelerating commercialization of our technology," said CEO Elaine Heron, PhD.

Labcyte, formed by the merger of Picoliter and Labcyte in 2003, provides compact liquid- and plate-handling systems, plastic laboratory supplies and the Echo 550 compound reformatter. The Labcyte acoustic liquid-handling technology has applications in the life sciences, including dispensing equipment, assay systems, particle manufacturing, microarrays and living cell transfer devices.

Ciphergen Biosystems (Fremont, California) and diagnostic test provider Quest Diagnostics (Lyndhurst, New Jersey) reported they have formed a strategic alliance to develop and commercialize proteomic diagnostic tests based on Ciphergen's SELDI ProteinChip technology.

The strategic alliance will focus on the commercialization of selected assays chosen from Ciphergen's pipeline over the next three years. In addition, for an aggregate purchase price of $15 million, Quest has purchased 6.2 million shares of Ciphergen common stock, or about 17% of that company's outstanding shares. It also has a five-year warrant to purchase an additional 2.2 million shares for $3.50 per share.

Additionally, Quest has agreed to loan Ciphergen up to $10 million to fund certain development activities. The loan would be forgiven based on achieving certain milestones. Additional terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

"Together, we have the opportunity to translate biomarker discovery into clinical diagnostic tests that will address unmet medical needs and improve patient care," said William Rich, PhD, CEO of Ciphergen Biosystems.

Ciphergen's Biosystems division develops a family of ProteinChip systems for clinical, research and process proteomics applications. The systems enable protein discovery, characterization, identification and assay development to provide researchers with predictive, multi-marker assay capabilities and a better understanding of biological function at the protein level.

454 Life Sciences (Branford, Connecticut), a subsi-diary of CuraGen (New Haven, Connecticut), reported achieving all initial milestones in its agreement with Roche (Basel, Switzerland), bringing total milestone payments received by 454 Life from Roche to $11.5 million.

In May, 454 Life and Roche entered into an exclusive five-year, worldwide agreement for the sale and distribution of 454 Life Sciences' Genome Sequencing Systems, including kits and reagents.

454 Life will receive up to $62 million dollars in license fees, milestones related to instrument releases, minimum royalties and research funding. Roche Diagnostics (Mannheim, Germany) is to sell 454 Life's products to all markets, with the exception of regulated diagnostics, where Roche Diagnostics obtained an exclusive right to negotiate the extension of the agreement into the regulated diagnostics market during the initial five-year term.

Christopher McLeod, president and CEO of 454 Life, said, "In addition to enabling the commercial launch with Roche, these milestones triggered payments which we believe will advance us toward our goal of financial self-sufficiency."

454 Life develops instrumentation and services for high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, with application to sequencing of whole genomes and "ultra-deep" sequencing of target genes. 454 Life describes its system as enabling "one individual to prepare and sequence an entire genome after performing a single sample preparation, of the size of the genome being studied."

The technology features a nanotech-based approach to sequencing which allows a single instrument to produce more than 20 million nucleotide bases every four-hour run, or 100 times the capacity of instruments using current macro-scale technology.

454 Life markets its sequencing services, instrument systems and reagents to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, biodefense and bioindustrial companies, universities and government agencies.

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