Helicos BioSciences Corp. (NSDQ:HLCS) launched a new molecular diagnostics business using its HeliScope single molecule sequencer after a significant restructuring.
In May, the company laid off half its workforce in a bid to capture more of the molecular diagnostics market.
The HeliScope device sequences single molecules of natural, unamplified DNA or RNA, which simplifies diagnostic testing by doing away with the need for the amplification steps required by other genetic analysis methods. The company said it believes its ability to eliminate the amplification steps will enable it to sell its molecular diagnostic tests for substantially less than comparable MDx tests.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based genomics company eliminated 40 jobs last month as it gave up on its genetic analysis and drug discovery businesses to focus solely on the molecular diagnostics market.
Helicos had struggled through the past year, losing ground in January in the race for more affordable genome sequencing as competitor Illumina Inc. (NSDQ:ILMN) broke a significant pricing threshold. Helicos’ president resigned a month later and in April NASDAQ regulators threatened to de-list Helicos shares unless the firm gets its stock price above $1 by October. A month after the warning letter arrived, the genetics technology company initiated the layoffs.
Helicos said it will first develop a MDx test to identify genetic mutations indicative of a woman’s increased risk of developing hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. The company said it expects to launch the test during the second quarter of 2011. Helicos also expects to seek Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification for a new genetic testing laboratory and hired Dr. Robert Wassman as chief medical officer in preparation for its new focus.