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Invitrogen Takes a Step Further Into Dx Reagent Market With Caltag Buy

Continuing its shopping spree for new protein-related technologies — and gaining another foothold in the diagnostic reagents market — Invitrogen this week said it will pay $20 million in cash to acquire Caltag Laboratories, a California manufacturer of immunological reagents.

Caltag, founded in 1985 and based in Burlingame, makes antibodies and other reagents for immunological assays, focusing on multi-color assays for flow cytometry. Its products include a range of monoclonal antibodies for the detection of human, mouse, and rat cell surface and intracellular markers.

Initially, Caltag offered its products for research use only. "However during the past several years we have made a major investment to position certain antibodies to human CD markers for use in clinical flow cytometry laboratories," according to Caltag's website. Fifteen of its products so far have been approved by the FDA as 510(k) Class II in vitro diagnostic devices.

In addition, Caltag's facility and processes comply with Good Manufacturing Practices requirements, which enabled the company to register several hundred antibodies with the FDA as Class I Analyte Specific Reagents. The company also has a small German subsidiary that offers more than 200 antibodies approved for diagnostic sales in the European Union.

Invitrogen sees the acquisition as another move into the diagnostic reagents market. Traditionally, the company has been supplying reagents for life science and drug discovery research. "We are looking to play a similar role in the market for companies producing diagnostic technologies," Greg Geissman, an Invitrogen spokesman, told BioCommerce Week.

This latest move came somewhat as a surprise. Earlier this month, CEO Greg Lucier said in an earnings call that Invitrogen has what it needs for the moment, and that any additional acquisitions would be "opportunistic" rather than strategic (BCW 05/05/2005).

Invitrogen's last two acquisitions this year — of antibody manufacturer Zymed Laboratories for $60 million and magnetic bead maker Dynal Biotech for $391 million — already pointed in the direction of diagnostics: A number of Zymed's antibodies have a diagnostic use, and Dynal's Dynabead technology "could be applied in that space," according to Geissman.

The company has also had collaborations with research institutes in the area of diagnostics, for example with the Mayo Clinic for the discovery of biomarkers, he added. Further down the road, Invitrogen would consider collaborating with in vitro diagnostic companies, Geissman said, although there are "no concrete plans" at this point.

Caltag's US staff of about 50 will remain in the San Francisco area as part of Invitrogen's Antibody Center of Excellence. Its German subsidiary, which has a "very small number of employees," according to Geissman, will remain in place.

The acquisition is scheduled to close by the end of June, and Caltag is expected to have approximately $10 million in sales in the ensuing 12 months.

— Julia Karow ([email protected])