After announcing last week a co-marketing pact with PerkinElmer in the cell analysis field, Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier told attendees of the UBS Global Life Sciences conference in New York this week that they should expect the company to make further moves to build its presence in that market.
For PerkinElmer, the deal could help it gain better overall name recognition in cell-based screening, which could help its LumiLux platform gain market penetration more rapidly.
Lucier declined to be specific or say whether expansion in the cell-analysis field would come from acquisitions or further alliances, but said, "stay tuned … our efforts will be focused there."
Terms of the company's alliance with PerkinElmer call for Invitrogen's Voltage Sensor Probes brand of ion channel reagents to be combined with PerkinElmer's CellLux fluorescence cellular screening platform, in order to offer the companies' customers a more complete platform for ion channel screening applications.
The news, if not surprising, follows very closely on the heels of PerkinElmer's new LumiLux instrumentation launch and a pledge to beef up its reagent portfolio, made at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences conference held two weeks ago in Geneva, Switzerland (see BioCommerce Week 9/22/2005).
"I've never used [PerkinElmer's] equipment, and FLIPR is probably the industry standard, so I would say that this would give PerkinElmer more visibility and help to promote their instrument."
Invitrogen's VSPs, which are based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer, can be used with PerkinElmer's CellLux fluorescence cellular screening platform. The platform has been on the market for a few years, but has not made a significant dent in the firm ion-channel screening market share held by Molecular Devices with its FLIPR line of instruments.
Interestingly, the VSPs, because they are fluorescent-based, are not compatible with PerkinElmer's recently launched LumiLux luminescent detection instrument. Deb Brusini, PerkinElmer's drug discovery business unit leader, said that PerkinElmer thinks LumiLux may eventually be better than fluorescence-based assays for ion channel screening because luminescence doesn't have the imaging artifacts of fluorescence and may be more sensitive.
PerkinElmer is currently either developing or eyeing for purchase what it considers ideal reagents for this platform.
Regardless, Molecular Devices has warmed researchers up to fluorescence-based calcium screening with FLIPR, so PerkinElmer's deal with Invitrogen may allow PerkinElmer to gain better overall name recognition in cell-based screening, which could then serve as a springboard for market penetration with LumiLux.
"I've never used [PerkinElmer's] equipment, and FLIPR is probably the industry standard, so I would say that this would give PerkinElmer more visibility and help to promote their instrument," said David Solow-Cordero, associate director of the High-Throughput Bioscience Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine, which uses several Molecular Devices platforms. "The instruments work pretty differently, but the end result you get is that you can run the same assays."
"I really think that in some ways, this agreement benefits PerkinElmer a lot more than Invitrogen," Solow-Cordero added. "Obviously for Invitrogen it's more money in the bank, but if PerkinElmer can sell even two more of these platforms, they'll get more out of it than Invitrogen."
Because Molecular Devices has its own in-house reagents to package with its screening instrumentation, it may not perceive a need to forge a co-marketing agreement with a partner such as Invitrogen. On the other hand, for PerkinElmer, which is not known for its reagent portfolio, this deal was likely the fastest way for it to make more immediate impact in the ion channel screening market.
Although Lucier declined to say whether Invitrogen was currently negotiating similar co-marketing deals with other partners, he said that the firm would ink additional pacts in the cell-analysis space.
"I really think that in some ways, this agreement benefits PerkinElmer a lot more than Invitrogen. Obviously for Invitrogen it's more money in the bank, but if PerkinElmer can sell even two more of these platforms, they'll get more out of it than Invitrogen."
More Acquisitions on the Horizon
It would not be surprising if Invitrogen bolstered its capabilities in the cell analysis field through an acquisition. The company has not been shy about adding new businesses in areas where it believes it trails competitors, and the firm has acquired and integrated companies at a torrid pace over the past couple of years.
One area where investors and customers can definitely expect to see more acquisitions is in the services side of Invitrogen's business. Lucier said that as pharmaceutical firms come to rely more and more on outsourcing certain activities, the need for services such as those provided by its BioProduction unit will increase. However, Lucier said the company would not buy a contract research organization.
Currently, the BioProduction unit comprises the firm's GIBCO cell culture manufacturing business and the BioReliance contract service organization. The BioReliance business, which Invitrogen purchased in early 2004 for roughly $500 million, has not met the company's expectations yet, Lucier ackowledged. Since the acquisition, Invitrogen has replaced management at the unit, and Lucier said he expects the business "will get it right over the next couple of quarters."
He noted that BioReliance accounts for less than 10 percent of Invitrogen's revenue, while GIBCO accounts for approximately 30 percent. The firm's BioDiscovery group which includes the acquired businesses of PanVera, Dynal, Molecular Probes, Protometrix, Caltag, and Zymed accounts for around 60 percent of its total revenue.