By Randall Osborne

Less than two months after buying an analytic-chemistry company to boost its pharmacogenomics effort, Orchid Biocomputer entered a $15 million collaboration with Motorola Inc.

"The benefit to Orchid is in beefing up our microfluidics capabilities," said Patricia Conway, vice president of operations. "The majority of the $15 million is already committed."

Princeton, N.J.-based Orchid's deal with Motorola, of Schaumburg, Ill., and its Biochips Systems group gives Orchid more expertise in engineering and manufacturing miniaturized electronics components for the company's high-throughput array systems.

Motorola also participated in Orchid's $27.5 million private placement earlier this year, and that participation is included in the $15 million deal disclosed Thursday, but the earlier placement "was just a fraction" the new amount, Conway said. (See BioWorld Today, April 15, 1998, p. 1.)

"We've been working with Motorola for quite some time," she added.

In September, Orchid acquired Molecular Tool, of Baltimore, for its single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analytic chemistry and genetic bit analysis capabilities. With Molecular Tool, Orchid intends to build an SNP analytic platform to analyze correlations between SNPs and specific genotypes, diseases and therapeutics. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 17, 1998, p. 1.)

Orchid's flexible array systems may be applied in drug discovery, genomics analysis, and detecting harmful microbes in military and hospital settings. As part of the collaboration, Motorola also will help Orchid construct a research-and-development and chip-fabrication facility in Princeton.

Conway said Orchid will seek more partners, and expects products to emerge from the company's technology paired with Molecular Tool's.

"We have some ideas for spending our own money," she said. Orchid was founded in 1995, and has almost 60 employees.

Motorola disclosed in June a collaboration with Packard Instrument Co., of Meriden, Conn., and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory to develop and market advanced biochips. Under the joint research agreement, Motorola and Packard will contribute $19 million. *

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