Celera Genomics Group pocketed about $36.1 million after divesting its entire interest in another company, Discovery Partners International Inc.

More specifically, Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., which Celera purchased three years ago, publicly sold about 7.2 million shares at $5, the stock's closing price on Wednesday. On Thursday, the shares (NASDAQ:DPII) gained 45 cents to close at $5.45.

"The shares were never a strategic asset for Celera, so we thought it was in the best interest of both organizations to register all the shares at once and offer them en masse, instead of selling off the position in small pieces," Rob Bennett, Celera's director of investor relations and communications, told BioWorld Today. "There wasn't a specific impetus [behind the decision to sell], but their stock price had gone up some, and it seemed like the market would be receptive at the time."

As a result, Rockville, Md.-based Celera no longer owns any stock in Discovery Partners. Axys originally received the shares, worth about 28 percent of the company, as payment for a business acquired by Discovery Partners.

Celera acquired South San Francisco-based Axys as part of its efforts to expand into therapeutic target and drug discovery. Axys brought Celera medicinal chemistry and biology knowledge, as well as experience in drug screening and structure-based drug design, especially related to protease inhibitors.

The added funds will supplement Celera's cash reserves, which totaled $739 million as of March 31. Celera made $11.2 million in revenue for the preceding three-month period, during which it posted a $21.9 million net loss.

"The intention would be to use it to support our drug discovery and development programs," Bennett said, "and our diagnostics joint venture."

He said Celera's therapeutic programs include small molecules designed to inhibit histone deacetylase (HDAC) for cancer, as well as inhibitors of Factor VIIa for anticoagulation indications such as deep-vein thrombosis. Both programs remain in late-stage preclinical testing.

A proteomic-based therapeutic target discovery is exploring proteins on the surface of cancer cells to be targeted by small molecules or antibodies. Bennett said Celera is seeking partners to develop antibodies, as the company does not have such capabilities.

Its diagnostics business, Celera Diagnostics (a 50/50 joint venture of Celera Genomics and Applied Biosystems Group), is developing testing for infectious diseases and cystic fibrosis through the identification of markers.

Both Celera Genomics and Applied Biosystems, of Foster City, Calif., are business units of Applera Corp., of Norwalk, Conn.

Discovery Partners granted the underwriters an overallotment option for about 1.1 million more shares. Should they exercise the option, the San Diego-based developer of drug discovery products, technologies and services would receive the proceeds.

New York-based SG Cowen & Co. LLC is the offering's lead manager, along with co-managers Merriman Curhan Ford & Co., of San Francisco, and Roth Capital Partners Inc., of Newport Beach, Calif.

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