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ACQUISITION Invitrogen Snaps Up Suitor-Choosy InforMax

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The road to acquisition was a long one for InforMax, which was rumored to be on the block for the better part of this past year — certainly since Andrew Whiteley took over as CEO in April. (The departure of founding CEO Alex Titomirov in March was a strong clue to many.)

Invitrogen’s outlay of $42 million, or $1.36 per share, for the informatics company was far from a surprise. The cash-heavy technology and reagent firm has been volubly seeking acquisition targets since the beginning of this year, singling out proteomics and informatics firms as its prime ambitions. In the past few years, Invitrogen acquired Novex, a gel firm; Research Genetics, in genomics tools; and Life Technologies, a molecular biology company.

What was a surprise, in some ways, was that InforMax, with $47 million left in the bank, finally found a match that worked. Accelrys looked at the company earlier this year and walked away, according to Steve Levine, senior director of strategic partnerships. Lion Bioscience was thought to have done the same thing, but spokeswoman Andrea Kreisselmeier declined to confirm that.

One interested company, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Gene Codes, was turned down by InforMax, according to president Howard Cash. “We expressed some interest in buying the company and the attorney at Bear Stearns sent me a nondisclosure [agreement],” Cash says of an exchange that took place in mid-July, “and then followed it up within an hour saying that the CEO [Whiteley] had said not to accept the nondisclosure from us.”

Cash says the top price he had in mind for InforMax was actually higher than what Invitrogen paid, “but then again, we didn’t get to do a due diligence,” he says. Cash had heard around the time that he was looking that Accelrys had already done due diligence and walked away, and that Lion was in the process of studying a potential acquisition. (Whiteley declined to comment on which other companies had flirted with InforMax, simply saying that “we looked at a number of opportunities.”)

The conversations and negotiations with Invitrogen took some two or three months, the last three weeks of which saw near-daily meetings of the InforMax board, whose members are Whiteley, Wei-Wu He of Emerging Technology Partners, and Harry D’Andrea and Hooks Johnston of Valhalla Partners.

Whiteley says one major draw of Invitrogen was “access to its marketing muscle and skills and global reach.” Though Invitrogen CEO Lyle Turner insists no plans have been made final about the integration process of the two companies, Whiteley says, “The plan is that we’ll continue to have a DC area presence for [InforMax].” He does not see moving the company to San Diego to merge with Invitrogen as an option for his company’s 170 staffers, some of whom will be lost to expected staff cuts.

Whiteley stressed that “this is not a Genomica situation.” InforMax will continue work on its line of products, with updates due out soon. “You need to be a big company to be successful in life sciences.”

— Meredith Salisbury

 

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