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Bio-Rad Hopes to Expand Biomarker Offerings by Acquiring Early-Stage Proteomics Shop ProteOptics

Looking to build upon its current offerings in protein research and biomarker discovery, Bio-Rad has purchased Israel-based ProteOptics, which is developing an instrument for studying protein-protein interactions.

The acquisition will provide Bio-Rad with a companion instrument to its Bio-Plex suspension array system for quantitative peptide and protein analysis. According to Emily Dale, marketing manager in Bio-Rad's Protein Function Division, ProteOptics' instrument, based on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology, also will enable the firm to bundle these tools for customers performing earlier-stage research and biomarker discovery.

"What we're offering is the next step in proteomics," Dale said. "Proteomics these days is really a big word, and people use the word proteomics if it has anything to do with proteins. But we view proteomics, and the mass spec workflow, the 2D gel workflow, as a discovery tool [to find] which proteins are interesting, what is regulated, [and] what is a biomarker.

"Once you know what protein is interesting, you want to understand how it behaves and who are its interacting partners," she added. Now, through the ProteOptics acquisition, Bio-Rad could enable customers to "take an interesting protein and ask who does it bind to, how strong is that binding, and if you're developing a drug, how well does that drug bind to that interesting protein, and what are the kinetics?"

"We have been working with ProteOptics for several years, and their technology is extremely interesting to us and fits into our portfolio. It became obvious to us that we wanted to develop a product around the technology."

The instrument being developed by ProteOptics looks at the interaction of molecules on a surface using refracted light. "It really is the future opportunity, because people have found interesting proteins [using existing technologies], and now they need to ask more questions," Dale told BioCommerce Week in an interview. "This enables them to ask more in-depth questions about the proteins that they think are interesting."

The prototype instrument looks like two microwave ovens side by side, into which a scientist feeds samples and buffer, Dale said. Bio-Rad expects to launch the instrument sometime this year but didn't provide a more specific timeframe.

She said the firm is looking to sell the instrument into several different market segments. Dale said, "We haven't really finalized the product design and price point, so I can't comment on which market segment we'll go after initially. We plan to offer products into all of those market segments that Bio-Rad addresses."

Bio-Rad officials told BioCommerce Week that the firm is targeting an $80-million market with the SPR technology.

Dale said the SPR technology fits well into Bio-Rad's portfolio, which includes products for protein purification, protein analysis, electrophoresis, protein separation, and protein identification.

"We have been working with ProteOptics for several years, and their technology is extremely interesting to us and fits into our portfolio," she said. "It became obvious to us that we wanted to develop a product around the technology that we could offer our customers."

Dale said that one of the primary benefits of acquiring ProteOptics while the instrument is in development is that the firm employs physicists who understand the nuances of the technology, as well as application scientists. "They really understand the biology and the application behind the results, and for us that's very powerful," she said.

The acquisition is a key part of Bio-Rad's strategy for the biomarker discovery market. The new instrument will be Bio-Rad's second product offering in that space, following its Bio-Plex system, which uses Luminex's xMAP technology and has been on the market since the end of 2000.

The deal also marks Bio-Rad's first acquisition since its purchase of MJ Research in August 2004 for $32 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities related to patent-infringement litigation with Applied Biosystems and Roche. Unlike many of its rivals in the BCW Index, the firm has not been acquisitive over the past year, but it did fail in a bid last year to acquire BioSource International, which rebuffed Bio-Rad in favor of being acquired by Invitrogen (see BioCommerce Week 7/28/2005).

Bio-Rad is not disclosing terms of the acquisition.

ProteOptics has 14 employees and was formed in July 2000 to develop the SPR technology developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

— Edward Winnick ([email protected])

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