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Mar 22, 2013

Affymetrix Genotyping 500,000 DNA Samples in UK Biobank's Next Phase

  • Affymetrix said today it will genotype 500,000 DNA samples donated by U.K. residents as part of the next phase of the UK Biobank project, a £21 million ($31.9 million) prospective epidemiological study of complex diseases deemed “of great relevance to public health.”

    Affymetrix and UK Biobank said the genotyping study will be the largest-ever study of genetic and environmental factors in disease and personalized medicine. The study is designed to help researchers better understand the complex interaction of lifestyle and genes in causing life-threatening and disabling disorders that include including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression, and forms of dementia.

    The company said it expects to begin delivering data for the study towards the end of this year, when it will start to recognize revenue from the project, with the majority of revenue to be recognized in 2014: “Affymetrix does not expect revenue from this contract to have a material impact in 2013,” it said in a statement.

    The U.K.’s Medical Research Council and Department of Health have each contributed £10 million ($15.2 million) toward the project, with the British Heart Foundation providing an additional £1 million ($1.5 million).

    Affymetrix said it will use its Axiom® Genotyping Solution to generate billions of high-quality genotypes for UK Biobank, the U.K.’s most comprehensive health study. From 2006–2010, UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40–69 years from across the kingdom for the project’s first phase. Patients provided blood, urine, and saliva samples for future analysis; provided detailed information about themselves; and agreed to have their health followed.

    Researchers hope the biobank will help them learn why some people develop particular diseases and others do not.

    Axiom’s genotyping arrays for biobanks allows for studying genotypes on a large scale. Customers have a choice in array plate configuration between the pre-designed array with some 610,000 SNPs and indels, or a customized array with about 115,000 markers, selected either by customers or by Affymetrix from the Axiom database.

    “This partnership reflects our efforts to strengthen our position in the growing translational medicine market and our commitment to work with visionary organizations such as the UK Biobank to produce the next generation of biological information that will improve healthcare,” Frank Whitney, Ph.D., Affymetrix’ president and CEO, said in a statement.

    Dr. Whitney said Affymetrix’ presence in the UK Biobank project reflects the company’s revised strategy, articulated earlier this year, to broaden its reach into the translational medicine, molecular diagnostics, and applied markets as part of a long-term transformation plan.

    The plan entails a restructuring designed to achieve about $25 million in annual savings—in part because Affymetrix expects that about 8% of its workforce, or more than 100 employees, will leave the company. Affymetrix expects to incur the remainder of an approximately $7 million charge for the restructuring during the first quarter of this year, after taking a $1.8 million charge in Q4 2012.

    Affymetrix has vowed to return to profitability this year, following a fourth-quarter 2012 in which it narrowed its GAAP net loss from a year earlier—to $12.3 million or 17 cents per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $14.7 million, or 21 cents per diluted share in the final three months of 2011. For all of 2012, Affymetrix more than halved its GAAP net loss to $10.7 million, or 15 cents per diluted share, compared with a 2011 net loss of $28.2 million, or 40 cents per diluted share.


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