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Proteomics Product Launch Signals Agilent s LSCA FY 05 Strategy

Agilent will begin shipping its new HPLC-Chip/MS product in January, the company said Monday at its annual analyst meeting in New York.

The announcement of the launch of the new proteomics product from the company’s Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis business unit served as a backdrop for a narrative of recovery and transformation of the company following an economic downturn that peaked in 2003, Agilent executives told some 80 analysts, media, and investors at the gathering.

“We have increased investments in our central research labs and have come out with a steady flow of new products,” Agilent CEO Ned Barnholt said. “2004 was the best [product launch] year we have had in the last several years.”

Agilent overall recorded $7.1 billion in revenues in FY ‘04, including $1.2 billion from new products.

The launch of new products will continue to be a goal of the company in 2005, Barnholt said.

Agilent reiterated its financial projections for FY ‘05, estimating earnings of $.14 to $.21 a share on revenue from $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion for the first quarter. Additionally, the company told investors and analysts that it is comfortable with analyst projections of revenues of $7.1 billion to $7.3 billion for the year.

“2004 was a turnaround year, with solid profitability in each and every quarter, and where we generated $700 million in cash and exited the year with $2.2 billion in the bank,” he said. “We had very good performance across the business in 2004.”

Agilent’s performance last year followed a period when the company saw orders plummet 55 percent in three quarters, a downturn “we had never seen before in our industry,” Barnholt said.

Agilent “survived” through the downturn and used the opportunity to slash its cost structure with some 16,000 layoffs, divestiture, and winnowing of its manufacturing sites to 15 from 42 as well as an investment in the installation of enterprise-level information technology management tools that is now complete, Barnholt said.

But part of the recovery was generated by the company’s LSCA business segment (see BCW 11/18/2004).

Barnholt said the LSCA unit’s performance for 2004 was “one of its best years in history.” The unit has grown from accounting for 11 percent of Agilent’s revenues in 2000, and operating at break-even levels, to doubling its revenues and providing an estimated 20 percent of Agilent’s total revenues in FY ‘05, the company said.

“It’s the most profitable business we’ve got,” said CFO Adrian Dillon.

The HPLC chip will be among the first product launches for 2005 and addresses the fast-growing proteomics market, as well as Agilent’s entry into the molecular diagnostics market (see story, page 7).

Darlene Solomon, vice president and director of Agilent Laboratories, said the HPLC product was developed in coordination with the LSCA unit, and demonstrates the company’s ability to combine its skills in optics and micromechanical electronic systems to address a market opportunity with innovation.

“This is the first microfluidics device capable of doing high-performance liquid chromatography,” she said.

The product uses proprietary Agilent laser ablation technology to separate complex samples into individual compounds.

The product addresses the sample-preparation portion of proteomics research processes and will allow multiplexing of processes on the chip.

“It’s the beginning of a family of products based on our proprietary technology with the capacity to displace liquid chromatography,” said Chris van Ingen, president of the LSCA unit. He said the hope is to eventually create a “black box” in which samples go in and data comes out, and researchers never have to see a mass spectrum. He said, however, that this vision “is not going to happen in 18 months,” but long-term.

The HPLC product is a card-based consumable product for use in Agilent benchtop liquid chromatography mass spectrometry systems. Instruments will cost from $10,000 to $18,000, with cards selling for $1,000 to $1,500.

The HPLC-Chip/MSproduct combines three of four technology areas that the LSCA unit has targeted as growth engines — microfluidics, chromatography, mass spectrometry, and microarrays.

The product will join several new genomics-related launches planned for the unit, including updated genome microarrays; the 5100 automated Lab-on-a-Chip platform for the measurement of DNA and proteins; informatics products from the Silicon Genetics acquisition of August; and new microarray applications in comparative genomic hybridization and location analysis.

In proteomics, the company said it will launch peptide-tagging applications for sample preparation, time-of-flight and ion trap technology enhancements for mass spectrometry, as well as informatics products for protein-peptide mapping and enhancements to the Spectrum Mill software platform.

— Mo Krochmal ([email protected])

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