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Fluidigm to Expand Sales Staff over Next Two Years

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Fluidigm intends to significantly expand its sales staff, particularly in North America, over the next two years, President and CEO Gajus Worthington told GenomeWeb Daily News this week.

"Our goal is to quadruple the size of our US sales operations over the next two years," he said. "The goal is to get the total size of that operation to 60 people.

"The reason that we're doing it is the business has expanded dramatically, even against the backdrop of the recession, and particularly in North America," said Worthington.

He said that the firm doubled its revenues year over year in 2008. And thus far in 2009, sales for its Biomark and EP-1 systems have "actually more than doubled" compared to 2008, he said.

The firm's BioMark system enables users to perform quantitative PCR, gene expression, and genotyping on one system, while the EP1 system is used for high-throughput SNP genotyping and digital PCR.

During the UBS Global Life Sciences Conference in September, Worthington noted that Fluidigm's revenues for the first six months of 2009 were $9.3 million, more than double its revenues of $4.4 million for the first half of 2008. The company placed 35 of its array-based instruments in the first half of this year compared to a total of 37 for full-year 2008.

"Now is the time for us to make this move," said Worthington. "It's clear that the market is there, the business is there, and now we really need to hire a large number of experienced sales operations folks in North America."

He said the firm would look to hire more staff in Europe and Asia, too, but the emphasis will be on North America.

Worthington said Fluidigm is looking to hire "experienced sales and sales operational professionals who have been in the life science tools business, who ideally have knowledge and experience with the single-cell, gene expression area." In particular, he cited gene expression profiling for stem cells, for cancer stem cells, and for circulating tumor cells, as prime areas.

He said that the firm also is experiencing a lot of growth in agricultural biotech genotyping, and needs to hire sales staff for that field. "That's a giant market that's taking shape," said Worthington.

In addition, Fluidigm is looking to hire people with experience in the next-generation sequencing market. A year ago, the company launched its Slingshot assays for the absolute quantification of single-stranded DNA for next-generation sequencing. It followed that with the recently introduced Access Array, a chip for sample preparation for targeted resequencing.

Fluidigm intends to launch several new products over the next year for all of the markets in which it currently competes. In addition, it is scheduled to introduce a stem cell culture chip at the end of next year.

Worthington said that the firm plans to do an additional financing to support these new hires. "It could be through a molecular diagnostics partnership for a non-invasive, pre-natal application. That is one that will likely produce some cash for the company," he said.

Fluidigm had planned on going public last year but was thwarted by the economic downturn and the stock market's nosedive in the fall of 2008. At the time, it had hoped to raise as much as $82 million to support its R&D and commercialization efforts.

"When the markets are ready, we'll do an IPO," Worthington told GWDN. "The company is in way better shape operationally than it was a year ago, when we almost got it done. So, we'll do that when the market is ready for us."

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