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A pathway to the future
January 2011
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


CARLSBAD, Calif.—After a year spent hammering out a deal to acquire significant technical know-how, a database of antibodies and bioinformatic capabilities, Active Motif has immersed San-Diego, Calif.-based Genpathway Inc. into its own operations, thus preparing for its thrust into the next era of next-generation sequencing. 
Active Motif, a leading provider of kits and reagents for the study of epigenetic phenomena, announced on Dec. 2 the acquisition of nine-year-old Genpathway, a specialist in solutions for the genome-wide analysis of epigenetic events, including DNA methylation, histone modification and transcriptional regulation.
Active Motif develops, manufactures and delivers epigenetics-based research tools to analyze nuclear function. Its customers include life scientists from academic and government institutions; biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies; hospitals and reference laboratories.
"Genome-wide analysis using high-density microarrays or next-gen sequencing has significantly broadened the ability of scientists to understand epigenetic events," says Joseph M. Fernandez, Active Motif's founder and CEO. "However, antibody selection, sample preparation and data analysis can create significant barriers to widespread scientific exploration, especially within biomedical research."
That's where Genpathway comes, in with capabilities to remove all of these obstacles, Fernandez says. Genpathway describes itself as an early-stage pharmacogenomics company that provides specialized drug and biomarker discovery services and develops novel diagnostic biomarkers that predict drug responses, enabling personalized treatments.
Before merging into Active Motif, Genpathway applied its proprietary chromatin and methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-Seq) technology to understand gene regulation and genetic pathways. Genpathway's platform "has the capacity to develop and commercialize a broad portfolio of clinically validated molecular diagnostic products and services that will enable the accurate selection of specific drugs to efficaciously treat individuals with cancer, immune disorders and other serious diseases," according to its website.
Active Motif's goal is to "make cutting-edge research accessible to the wider life science community—and the combination of Genpathway's expertise in genome-wide analysis and Active Motif's extensive offerings in 'off-the-shelf' epigenetic-specific tools means that we can now provide life scientists of all capabilities with the most comprehensive portfolio of characterized epigenetic products available today," Fernandez says.
Theodore DeFrank, Active Motif's president, calls the deal a natural extension of the nearly 10 years of expertise the company has developed in the area of epigenetics.
Financial and other details were not disclosed.
"Active Motif acquired essentially all of the assets of Genpathway; therefore, the former Genpathway only exists as a legal entity—not as a commercial entity," DeFrank explains.  "Active Motif acquired the rights to the Genpathway name, so thus, from a customer perspective, Genpathway is part of Active Motif."
Patrick Mallon, the former CEO of Genpathway, tells ddn that the acquisition should have come as a surprise to no one, as both companies have been working toward this end over the past year.
"The opportunity arose during business development discussions," DeFrank says. "Active Motif and Genpathway have had various discussions over the years exploring ways in which the two companies may be able to work together. Conversations held during the summer of 2010 led to a mechanism in which we could merge the Genpathway Epigenetics service business with Active Motif's worldwide sales and marketing efforts." Plus, the timing was perfect, he adds.
"Genpathway's lease was expiring at the end of the year, so it was a simple decision to integrate all aspects of their business into Active Motif's Carlsbad headquarters," DeFrank says.
"Given that Genpathway's facility was only 15 miles down the road, the relocation was quick and straightforward." The Genpathway employees responsible for performing the services and interacting with customers have been retained in order to provide the continuity and quality of service the customers have come to expect, he says.
The acquisition is a "perfect fit into Active Motif's strategic mission, which is dedicated to developing and delivering innovative cell biology-based research tools and biocomputing resources that help researchers worldwide in their quest to elucidate the function, regulation and interactions of the genes and their encoded proteins," DeFrank says.
Active Motif, founded in 1999, is well recognized within the academic market by life science researchers studying the underlying mechanisms involved in epigenetics, DeFrank says.
At the same time, Genpathway's service business is well regarded with the life science research groups. The combined entity will leverage the technology and tools to develop products and services more applicable to the target identification and screening processes within the drug development process—as well developing assays for the molecular diagnostics market, he says.
"In the future, we aim to integrate many of Active Motif's unique research tools within drug discovery and biomarker-related service offerings," DeFrank says.
Operating globally from its corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., and European headquarters in Rixensart, Belgium, Active Motif has a worldwide network of sales and support offices as well as distributors in Europe, Japan and North America.
Code: E011118



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