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Former Rivals Become Partners as Qiagen Acquires Eppendorf s Reagent Business

Hoping to expand its preanalytical products portfolio, Qiagen has acquired Eppendorf's reagent business for an undisclosed amount, and the two companies have penned an alliance to co-develop and co-market certain life-science products for biological sample-management and analysis, Qiagen announced last week.

The acquisition provides Qiagen with some new intellectual property in the DNA polymerase area and an opportunity to pair its reagents with Eppendorf's automated workstations. The collaboration also ends some competitive "friction" that existed between the two German companies, according to Ulrich Schriek, Qiagen's vice president of corporate business development and member of the firm's executive committee.

Eppendorf's reagent business includes the firm's "5-Prime" nucleic acid sample-preparation kit, PCR reagent product lines, and a pipeline of technologies for nucleic acid handling, separation, purification, and amplification, according to Qiagen.

Schriek told BioCommerce Week that the alliance is not focused on a particular instrument platform, but would combine complementary consumables necessary for preanalytical sample preparation — the primary focus of Qiagen's offerings.

Schriek also said it is possible Qiagen will develop dedicated reagents for Eppendorf's instrument platforms.

"This whole activity to acquire the business was to have the last friction point removed between both of our companies. We came to the conclusion that this was the best way … of having a frictionless future, to combine and collaborate in certain areas on development and marketing and selling."

Eppendorf is known for its liquid-handling instruments, including pipettes, centrifuges, PCR cyclers, and work stations. But the firm also held a portfolio of sample prep reagents, which have now been sold to Qiagen, that were competing with Qiagen's products.

"There is some overlap in the preparation area where they have tried to copy a few of our products, but this is not substantial," Schriek said. "There are [also] some preparation products which are attractive, since they are not based on technologies that require a license, and they have some very nice pre-filled plastic tubes that are compatible with some of our reagents.

"They have some nice ingredients where you can separate the sample from the waste by just centrifuging, [and] we didn't have this," Schreik added. "The main value is in Eppendorf's development in the DNA polymerase area, which is addressing amplification. Here, they have their own IP and enzymes and some technologies which are very attractive and complementary to ours."

Qiagen is one of several firms that licensed rights to PCR technology from Applied Biosystems under ABI's expanded license program announced last year.

Another possible area of collaboration is microarrays, a market in which both firms already sell products. Eppendorf sells the DualChip microarray, and Qiagen provides sample-prep reagents to at least a couple of manufacturers, including Osmetech and market-leader Affymetrix. Qiagen expects to ink more collaborations in the field going forward, according to a company official, with an eye toward becoming the standardized preanalytical technology for microarrays — a field that has yet to set standards (see BioCommerce Week 12/1/2005).

"This whole activity to acquire the business was to have the last friction point removed between both of our companies," Schriek said. "We came to the conclusion that this was the best way … of having a frictionless future, to combine and collaborate in certain areas on development and marketing and selling."

He said there had not been any legal actions between the firms, but "there was some peaceful co-existence in Germany, [and] we didn't talk on a higher level."

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. However, Qiagen said it expects Eppendorf's reagent business to add $6 million in net sales in 2006 and $11 million in 2007. As part of the deal, Qiagen said it also expects to incur $3 million in one-time charges in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Qiagen generated $380 million in revenues in 2004, the most current annual period for which figures are available. Schriek said the firm does not split out revenue by product group.

Response to Beckman's Plans?

Because it provides sample-prep technologies for molecular biology research and molecular diagnostic applications, Qiagen competes with other BCW Index firms, including Invitrogen and Stratagene. The firm has several instrument partners, including Beckman Coulter, for which it develops dedicated reagents.

However, last year Beckman acquired Agencourt Bioscience, a firm developing both a next-generation DNA-sequencing technology and the Solid Phase Reversible Immobilization (SPRI) technology for isolating and purifying DNA and RNA (see BioCommerce Week 5/5/2005).

At the time of the acquisition, Beckman said it would eventually use the SPRI technology Instead of Qiagen's sample-prep products in its automated sample preparation systems for biomedical research and molecular testing. Beckman had already been using the SPRI technology with its BioMek automated liquid-handling systems in Agencourt's genomic services business, which includes its DNA-sequencing services.

Schriek said the Eppendorf alliance was not forged in response to possibly losing business from Beckman. He said the firm has several partnerships with automated instrument firms to use its reagents, including an OEM alliance to continue providing Beckman with dedicated and CE-marked products to run on Beckman's Vidiera platform.

— Edward Winnick ([email protected])

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