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Invitrogen Eyes Additional Instrument Offerings, Transplant Dx Market

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Less than two years after unveiling its initial offering of instruments, Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier told investors during the firm’s first-quarter conference call last month that the development of small instrument systems would continue to be a focused part of Invitrogen’s growth strategy and that a transplant diagnostics system would soon hit the market.
 
Invitrogen began its foray into the low-cost, benchtop instrument market in 2006 with the launch of its iBlot Dry Blotting system, iPrep purification instrument, and Qubit DNA, RNA, and protein quantitation platform. It marked the Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm’s initial diversification from a reagents and services firm into a provider of what Lucier has referred to as “disposable” instruments.
 
The iBlot and Qubit instruments are particularly inexpensive, selling for around $1,000 and $750, respectively. During the firm’s first-quarter conference call, Lucier said that over the previous 18 months, Invitrogen had sold more than 3,600 units of the iBlot, which brings in around $1,200 per unit in reagent sales, and 3,200 of the Qubit platforms, which bring in $250 per unit in reagent sales each year.
 
“We’re not even close to market saturation for either of these instruments,” said Lucier during the call.
 
“In addition, the sales of our iPrep machine, priced at about $30,000, are ramping up, and each of these machines generate over $25,000 per unit in reagent annuities,” he added.
 
Lucier said the firm will launch more instruments this year in the areas of protein analysis and RNA and DNA preparation — and the firm has its eye on getting some of these new instruments into the diagnostics market. Lucier said Invitrogen will soon release a new instrument and set of reagents for the transplant diagnostics market.
 
“That machine will be fully rolled out in the next couple of months, and we think that’s really going to bring great growth to the HLA business,” said Lucier. “But, more importantly, that platform then is our platform that we’re going to take into some other diagnostic businesses with our own proprietary assays.”
 
The transplant diagnostics system will require US Food and Drug Administration clearance, an Invitrogen spokesperson confirmed for GenomeWeb Daily News. The company did not provide an estimate for that market opportunity.
 
However, the transplant diagnostic product would not be Invitrogen’s first entry into the diagnostics field. In addition to supplying in vitro diagnostic partners with reagents that are used in commercialized kits, the firm currently sells an HER2 chromogenic in situ hybridization diagnostic kit outside of the US and is currently awaiting FDA clearance for the kit in the US.
 
“We have many additional technologies that fit strongly into diagnostic applications, but we have chosen not to add significant diagnostics sales and marketing infrastructure at this time,” the Invitrogen spokesperson told GWDN via e-mail this week. “We will continue to bring our new technologies to market through partnerships.”
 
In addition, Lucier noted during the call that the iPrep system goes “hand-in-hand” with Invitrogen’s ChargeSwitch technology and has its best application in molecular diagnostics. He said the system is used primarily by customers doing lower- to medium-throughput molecular diagnostics.
 
 
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