Celera shares jump $10.375 on stock-split news

Company strikes deal with California firm on browser rights

Biotechnology

January 21, 2000|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Shares in PE Corp.-Celera Genomics Group soared back into record territory yesterday as the company announced a 2-for-1 stock split and said it had struck an agreement with a California gene research outfit.

Shares in Celera, which have risen more than 1,500 percent since June, closed yesterday at $226.375, up $10.375 in heavy trading.

Earlier in the day, shares in the money-losing company hit $241, still $17 shy of a 52-week high of $258 on Jan. 10.

The 2-for-1 stock split will be payable to stockholders of record as of the close of business Feb. 4. The split will take effect Feb. 18. Afterward, Celera will have 52 million shares outstanding.

Celera, which was formed in 1998, said Jan. 10 that it is close to completing an entire map of the human genome. That day, shares in the Rockville-based company rocketed $50.

Celera is the second high-flying Maryland biotechnology company to announce this year that it will split its shares; the other was Human Genome Sciences Inc., also of Rockville.

As for the agreement disclosed yesterday, Celera licensed from privately held Neomorphic of Berkeley, Calif., rights to use a browser capable of finding and tying together large amounts of seemingly disparate genetic information.

It will operate in much the same way as commonly used browsers today search the World Wide Web for information that has similar characteristics.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The companies also plan to develop computer software tools for mining human and other genetic information as Celera nears its goal of compiling a blueprint of all human genes.

Celera plans to offer the browser and tools to clients, such as drug companies, that have signed subscriptions to access its growing database of human gene information.

Mark Adams, vice president of genome programs at Celera, said the company anticipates that the software tools and browser will save clients time and money in their drug development projects.

Prior to Neomorphic developing its browser, gene researchers had to print out from their computers reams of paper with gene sequences, or codes, so they could conduct research. It was a time-consuming process.

"This deal with Celera really validates our browser technology," said Cyrus Harmon, founder and chief executive officer of 3-year-old Neomorphic. It has deals with several pharmaceutical companies to aid them in gene research for drug development efforts.

Neomorphic's technology also allows scientists to see computer generated one-dimensional images of specific genes' chemical structures, and compare them with other genes or gene families.

The companies plan to co-develop other software tools to help scientists study specific genes and compare human genetic information to that of other species.

Celera acquired a 47.5 percent stake this month in Shanghai GeneCore BioTechnologies, a genetic technology company in Shanghai, China, for an undisclosed amount from Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc. in San Francisco.

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