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Beckman Coulter s Denham on Targeting the Molecular Dx Market with New Platforms

Over the past two months, Beckman Coulter has released its Vidiera NsD nucleic sample detection platform and Vidiera NsP nucleic sample preparation platform. The new instruments are key to the firm's emerging efforts in the molecular diagnostics field. The NsD platform is based on Beckman's capillary electrophoresis technology and was launched last month in the US, with an international roll-out planned for next year. The launch of the NsP, which is based on Beckman's primary tube-handling technology and Biomek automation, was announced last week. This week, Dwight Denham, business manager for Beckman Coulter, answered questions from BioCommerce Week via e-mail about the new platforms.

What is the major advancement of the Vidiera NsP platform over other sample prep platforms?

The major advancements include the versatility to run a range of applications, easy user interface, and integrated quantitation and normalization. The system also performs reaction setup to common PCR & qPCR formats.

When the company says that it can replace several instruments, which instruments in particular are you talking about? Competitors or previous Beckman platforms?

This platform has been designed to prepare samples for most downstream analytical processes in the market today, including detection on the Vidiera NsD, as opposed to labs purchasing dedicated prep systems for downstream analytical process, such as the AmpliPrep for the Cobas Amplicor or Taqman 48, and the MagNApure for the LightCycler.

How does the NsP system work in concert with the recently released Vidiera NsD platform?

Patient demographics that are entered on the Vidiera NsP platform can be electronically transferred to the Vidiera NsD to prevent transcription errors. Plus the sample PCR plate, on which reaction setup was performed on the Vidiera NsP, can be loaded directly onto the Vidiera NsD platform for separation of the nucleic acids, post-amplification.

Has Beckman Coulter already started selling the platform, and is there a push to try and get customers to buy both the NsP and NsD platforms?

Both platforms are currently for sale. A Vidiera Suite allows labs to bundle their purchase for both platforms.

Can you disclose pricing for either or both platforms?

No.

What is the size of the market you are addressing with these platforms?

Many publications have estimated the 2004 molecular diagnostics market at approximately $1.6 billion.

Can you talk about the importance of sample prep technologies to the company?

In the diagnostic market, samples are precious and therefore the preparation of those samples for downstream processing is critical. Some recent articles have stated that the error introduced in manual sample prep far outweighs the error in the analytical process. This is primarily due to the fact that many analytical processes have already been automated in the molecular diagnostics market, while manual prep is still quite common. Beckman Coulter's extensive experience in automating lab processes, and in this case sample prep processes, can be leveraged into products that reduce error in sample handling, meeting a critical need for labs today. Another issue in many hospital labs today is shortage of labor. So you could say that the importance of our technology is that it brings quality products to labs that simplify and automate their processes, saving manpower and reducing error for better quality in downstream analytical results.

How did the purchase of Agencourt fit in with that view?

One of the three key business areas that the Agencourt acquisition brought Beckman Coulter was the skills and products used in nucleic acid sample prep for research markets. Our goal is to take a sample preparation leadership position in the molecular diagnostics market. Beckman Coulter has a strong reputation for building platforms that allow broad use in many applications. As the market needs for general liquid handling platforms goes through market segmentation, there is value in ongoing application support to have platforms designed around the extraction chemistries.

Why did Beckman Coulter make the decision to partner with Qiagen and incorporate their QiaAmp technology?

Qiagen is the leader in sample prep chemistries for the molecular diagnostics market, [while] we are the leading producer of liquid handling platforms. Therefore, it made sense to offer these in combination to the molecular diagnostic laboratory community. Prospective customers confirmed that this combination would give them exceptional quality products and the service and support capacity they needed.

Do you foresee further collaboration with them?

We are not able to disclose any other arrangements with Qiagen beyond what we have announced. But as a company, the whole area of molecular testing is a focus for our technology development, partnering and acquisition strategies.

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