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Invitrogen boosts drug development capability

Madison, Wis. - A California-based life sciences company with 120 Madison employees is bolstering its research toolbox to handle the most studied class of proteins in today's drug development market.

The new capability will be made possible by Invitrogen Corp.'s recent acquisition of Sentigen Holding Corp., which will be integrated with Invitrogen's Discovery Sciences Business in Madison.

The scientific opportunity

The important protein family, comprised of "G-protein coupled receptors," is large and diverse. Because GPCRs are involved in a wide range of cellular functions, they are implicated in certain stages of many diseases, and are consequently the target of 40 to 50 percent of modern medicinal drugs.

"Most of our technology expertise and the bulk of our collection has been in kinase [a type of enzyme] assays thus far," said Greg Geissman, a spokesman for Invitrogen . "GPCRs are the most studied and most screened class of proteins. So having that is absolutely vital to a robust assay development program."
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The term assay refers to any laboratory procedure in which a mixture is analyzed.

According to some studies, there are over 800 GPCRs in the human genome, covering a diversity of biological processes. They are especially noted for their role in transferring chemical messages from outside to inside the cell.

Sentigen's Tango Assay System studies a wide variety of receptor systems but initially will be used to monitor different kinds of GPCR activation. Tango also helps measure protein interactions in living cells, something Invitrogen did not previously have.

Sentigen's other capabilities include "assay ready" cells that allow researchers to view cells in a state in which they do not divide.

The acquisition

The deal will allow Carlsbad-based Invitrogen to acquire Phillipsburg, N.J.-based Sentigen's two subsidiaries, Sentigen Biosciences, Inc. and Cell and Molecular Technologies, Inc., subject to approval by Sentigen stockholders. Completion of the transaction is expected during the final three months of the year.

The subsidiaries provide contract research and development services to drug-discovery companies.

The purchase price was $25.9 million, or $3.37 per Sentigen share. Sentigen had cash investments of $11.7 million and was $800,000 in debt as of June 30.

Geissman said the impact on Invitrogen's Madison facility will be evaluated after the deal closes, although more employees may be added in a possible reconfiguration of Sentigen's Phillipsburg operation.

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