Firm will leverage its True Single Molecule Sequencing platform.

Helicos BioSciences has decided to eliminate about 40 positions during this fiscal year in an effort to refocus the company on the diagnostics market. Approximately half the company’s 40 remaining employees are supported by NIH funding on research designed to further improve Helicos’ DNA and RNA single-molecule sequencing technology.

The company explains that its True Single Molecule Sequencing (tSMS™) technology allows direct measurement of billions of strands of DNA. Helicos is a recipient of two $1,000 genome grants.

The firm will support its current installed base and stabilize system performance, which has varied at some customer and placement sites. It will continue supporting its clients through collaborative activities, reagent supply, and service support.

At the same time it will shift a significant portion of its resources toward the development of its diagnostics strategy and related technology, applications, and commercialization plans. The firm believes that diagnostics applications may benefit from the specific features for which the Helicos System is uniquely suited, including the platform’s quantitative accuracy, the use of small sample quantities in simple preparation methods, and high throughput as well as lack of biases typically seen with sample amplification.

“In our first quarter 2010 regulatory filings, we stated that we were considering alternatives to our existing long-term strategic focus, including the repositioning of the company in the genetic-analysis markets,” states Ron Lowy, president and CEO. “During this process we have engaged a variety of consultants in the genomic research, services, and diagnostics industries to evaluate available alternatives, and as a result of this evaluation we believe that our proprietary technology is uniquely suited for the diagnostics markets.

“Furthermore, we believe the large opportunity for diagnostics sequencing applications is in its infancy, with relatively limited competition from major sequencing companies, which we believe are less capable for diagnostics applications.”

The company reported that it had about $11.3 million at the end of the first quarter. Product revenue dropped to $42,000 during the first three months of this year compared to $963,000 during the same period last year. Grant revenue, however, increased from $239,000 last year to $527,000 this year during the same period.

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