CombiMatrix Is Busy in the DNA Lab
By Gene G. Marcial
Tiny CombiMatrix (CBMX ), a developer of biochips that perform DNA diagnostics and detect hazardous chemicals, went public on Dec. 16 at 4.20 a share. It now trades at 2.90. But it has attracted drugmaker Roche, the Defense Dept., and NASA. Roche has a 15-year pact to commercialize the made-to-order semiconductor-based technology that identifies genes, gene mutations, and proteins. Ivonne Marondel of Gerard Klauer Mattison estimates the deal is worth $30 million. So far, Roche has paid $8.5 million and plans to launch the first CombiMatrix products later in 2003. Marondel rates the stock "outperform," with a 12-month target of 5. She sees CombiMatrix posting profits in 2006. The Pentagon is after its DNA probes for monitoring chemical and biological agents. CombiMatrix will get $3.6 million from the 2003 U.S. Defense Budget, says CEO Amit Kumar. In 2002, CombiMatrix got $1 million to develop a pocket-size prototype of a system for detection of agents such as anthrax and nerve gas. In 2001, NASA signed a pact to buy the biochips for the space station for research on how DNA behaves in space. CombiMatrix is also set to sign a pact with a defense contractor, says a source close to the company, "that will dwarf the $3.6 million from the Defense budget."
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