Motorola in 5-Year Venture to Develop Biochips

From Bloomberg News

Motorola Inc., Packard BioScience Co., and the Argonne National Laboratory said Monday they will work together in a $19-million, five-year venture to develop so-called biochips to speed up the decoding of genes and other biological research.

Motorola, which makes cellular phones and semiconductors, will spend $9.3 million to mass-produce a biochip invented by Argonne, a U.S. government research facility operated by the University of Chicago and the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow, an Argonne spokeswoman said.

Like computer chips, which perform millions of mathematical operations a second, biochips can perform thousands of biological reactions in a few seconds. The chips, about the size of a microscope slide with a gel pad embedded on them, can detect such things as the air quality in hospitals and the early stages of disease in children. Motorola’s goal is to eventually bring the price of the $100 chip down to 40 cents apiece.

Meriden, Conn.-based Packard, which is privately held, will spend $9.7 million to refine the laser optic scanning technology to analyze the biochips.


Separately, Motorola on Monday agreed to sell its wireless telecommunications unit that serves Europe to RSL Communications for $100 million in cash and assumed losses.

Bermuda-based RSL, an international long-distance and Internet telephone company founded by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, now offers wireless services only in Australia.

Motorola has struggled recently as demand for its chips slowed, particularly in Asia. The company announced June 4 that it will cut 15,000 jobs, or 10% of its work force, and take a $1.95-billion charge in an effort to save $750 million a year.

Shares of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola rose $1.19 to close at $53.88 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of RSL rose 56 cents to close at $29.63 on Nasdaq.