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Multiplex Instrumentation May Be In Qiagen's Future

This article has been updated to correct information about Qiagen's current offerings in the instrumentation market.

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – Qiagen, which has long focused on sample and assay technologies, may be readying a new multiplex instrument for the diagnostics market.

Though Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz would not confirm that the firm will launch such an instrument, his comments today at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference here suggested such a system may be unveiled soon.
Qiagen has rapidly expanded its molecular diagnostics business over the past few years through many acquisitions that have provided the company with multiplex technologies and a broad portfolio of assays that could potentially be deployed on a multiplex instrument.
Asked by GenomeWeb Daily News during the company’s breakout session whether Qiagen was considering developing a larger, multiplex instrument for the content it has acquired, Schatz appeared reluctant to answer. However, he noted that the firm had a booth at a recent pathology meeting and said, “If you were there, you saw something.”
He added that Qiagen would discuss potential new instrumentation further at its annual investors’ day on Feb. 14 in New York.
If Qiagen does launch such a multiplex instrument, it could greatly expand the revenue the firm derives from instrument sales. Although Qiagen has been selling automated workstations since 1996 and currently generates roughly $60 million from automation sales, most of its revenue comes from sample-preparation technologies, assay development, and other consumable technologies.
Last year, Qiagen introduced the QiaCube, a very low-cost – roughly $15,000 – system designed for low-throughput research applications. Schatz said the QiaCube’s sales have “blown by” the company’s projections and noted that some researchers were using it for low-throughput diagnostic applications.
While it is difficult for smaller companies to survive in the life sciences research and diagnostics space selling capital equipment, following its $1.6 billion acquisition of Digene last summer, Qiagen now has much greater revenues and resources that would mitigate the risk of selling more costly instrumentation. The firm expects to report annual revenue in the neighborhood of $800 million for fiscal 2007, of which 48 percent will come from molecular diagnostic products.
In addition, the acquisition of Digene provided Qiagen with the Rapid Capture diagnostic instrument platform.
The firm also bought a couple of enabling technologies when it purchased PCR-based multiplexing technology firm Genaco Biomedical in October 2006, and followed that deal with the $34 million acquisition last year of multiplex molecular diagnostics firm eGene.
In addition to discussing its plans for multiplex instrumentation, Schatz said Qiagen would provide an update at the investors’ meeting next month on its next-generation human papillomavirus test. The QiaPlex HPV test, which has been fast-tracked by the firm, will be based on the multiplex technology Qiagen gained when it acquired Genaco.

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