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Molecular Devices buys Transfluor: Acquisition from Xsira Pharmaceuticals strengthens MD’s GPCR tool line
April 2005
by Jeffrey Bouley  | 
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SUNNYVALE, Calif.—With the $11-million purchase of Transfluor technology assets from Xsira Pharmaceuticals in early March, Molecular Devices Corp. officials say the company significantly strengthened its position as a provider of tools for imaging and G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) assays.
 
"The Transfluor assay is the accepted gold standard HCS assay for GPCR activation," says Dr. Mike Sjaastad, Molecular Devices' director of marketing, imaging. "It is very complimentary to our widely used FLIPR technology and we feel that we can best support the GPCR screening community by offering both technologies."
 
According to statements from Molecular Devices, the Transfluor assay "offers a robust way to visualize key cellular events and to detect receptor activation. Because of its nearly universal applicability to all types of GPCRs, the leading class of drug targets, Transfluor technology has become a popular tool for drug discovery."
 
"Molecular Devices Corp. is committed to providing a total solution in HCS and imaging," Sjaastad adds. "Hardware, software and biology. The Transfluor assay is an exemplary application for GPCR studies ."
Xsira Pharmaceuticals, formerly known as Norak Biosciences, developed the Transfluor technology based on research conducted at Duke University. Along with the company name change, though, Xsira decided to focus on its own drug discovery program, which it will do via a license to the Transfluor technology granted in the deal.
 
"It was the right time to sell the technology, because we had taken the commercialization of it as far as we could without seeing a substantial increase in business development costs," explains Peter J. Heath, Xsira's chief financial officer and vice president, finance and administration.
 
Faced with two business lines—platform technology development and drug development—Xsira
chose to focus on drug development and put the word out last year that Transfluor was available for purchase.
 
"The short-term gain for us, obviously, is an infusion of cash and thus non-dilution of our funding," Heath says. "The longer-term benefit is that we gain greater concentration on our internal drug development efforts and, we hope, will be able to make faster progress without the distraction of marketing a platform technology."
 
Transfluor's proprietary assays have been validated on a number of imaging platforms, including Molecular Devices' own Discov-ery-1 and ImageXpress systems. Other systems on which the technology has been validated include the IN Cell Analyzer 3000 by Amersham Biosciences; the Array-Scan by Cellomics; the Cell Lab IC 100 from Beckman Coulter; the Opera system from Evotec; iCyte from CompuCyte Corp.; Explorer from TTP Lab-Tech/Acumen; and Pathway HT from Atto Bioscience.
 
"One question we keep getting is whether we'll license the Trans-fluor technology to companies with imaging platforms from providers other than us, and answer is 'Yes,'" Sjaastad emphasizes. "We can best support it when it's on our equipment using our software, but it has been validated on many other products, so we won't leave those people out in the cold."
 
Code: E040511

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