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Qiagen Continues Asia, MDx Investment Trend With Newly Formed Singapore JV

This story originally appeared in Biocommerce Week, a newsletter that has been discontinued.
 
Continuing its expansion in Asia and its focus on molecular diagnostics development, Qiagen is forming a joint venture with Bio*One Capital in Singapore focused on developing molecular diagnostic assays.
 
The joint venture is the latest in a series of moves by Qiagen to expand its presence in Asia, which currently accounts for nearly 10 percent of its annual sales. The new venture will collaborate with all of Qiagen’s development facilities, including Digene’s operations, in developing new assays.
 
Qiagen said earlier this week that it was forming a joint venture, called Dx Assays, with Bio*One, a biomedical investment management company based in Singapore. The main focus of the joint venture will be to develop molecular diagnostic tests for genetic and infectious diseases.
 
The firms are not disclosing the ownership split in the joint venture, a Qiagen spokesman told BioCommerce Week. He said that Bio*One is mostly supplying undisclosed funding for the new firm.
 
However, “Dx Assays will also benefit from Bio*One’s extensive network across the biomedical industry in Asia,” he said.
 
Bio*One is the biomedical sciences investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. The firm invests in over 60 companies worldwide and manages over S$1.2 billion ($830.2 million) in investment funds.
 
The SEDB was the catalyst for the development of the Biopolis, a massive life sciences research park intended to attract companies around the world in placing their Asian operations in Singapore.
 
Although Dx Assays will not be located in the Biopolis, “due to the small size of Singapore, proximity to relevant players and customers is guaranteed,” said the Qiagen spokesman.
 
He said there are several reasons Qiagen decided to place the joint venture in Singapore, including “highly attractive” terms of taxes and financial funding, and relatively strong intellectual property protection.
 
The spokesman also noted that certain subtypes of viruses in Asia vary from other parts of the world. “In this region, which has a high incidence of infectious diseases and potential pandemic outbreaks, such as SARS and avian flu, molecular testing no doubt plays an increasingly important role in diagnostics and disease control,” he said. “Having a development center based in Asia facilitates access to clinical samples from this region.”
 
He also noted that many pharmaceutical companies are expanding their clinical trials operations in Asia, particularly in China, Singapore, and India.
 
"The in-depth expertise and talent pool in biomedical research makes Singapore an ideal location for a center for assay development,” Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz added in a statement.
 
Dx Assays also plans to collaborate with research institutes and hospitals in the molecular diagnostics field in Singapore.
 
Another MDx Addition
 
Over the past few years, Qiagen has made several acquisitions intended to diversify its business and shift its focus to the rapidly growing molecular diagnostics market. Those acquisitions have resulted in about 48 percent of revenues currently coming from molecular diagnostic products, up from roughly 20 percent in 2004.
 
A major part of the firm’s diagnostics strategy was its June 2005 acquisition of Artus, a manufacturer of PCR-based diagnostic assays, for $40 million (see BioCommerce Week 6/2/2005).
 

“Having a development center based in Asia facilitates access to clinical samples from this region.”

Qiagen’s molecular diagnostics acquisition spree has continued since then, and this past year the firm made a couple of acquisitions to position it for future growth and product development in the field.
 
Earlier in the year, Qiagen spent roughly $34 million to acquire eGene, which makes a multiplex genetic analyzer that Qiagen officials said would integrate seamlessly with its sample and assay technologies for molecular diagnostics and clinical research applications (see BioCommerce Week 4/18/2007).
 
This summer, the firm made its biggest mark in the molecular diagnostics industry with the $1.6 billion acquisition of Digene. That purchase provided Qiagen with the only molecular diagnostic test for human papillomavirus cleared for sale in both the US and Europe.
 
Concurrent with Qiagen’s expansion in the molecular diagnostics market has been its growth in the Asian market.
 
The firm’s strategy for growth there started with its $14.5 million acquisition of Shenzhen PG Biotech in September 2005 (see BioCommerce Week 9/29/2005). The acquisition provided the company with more than 10 assays approved by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, more than 20 employees focused on assay development, and an established sales channel and regulatory expertise in the Chinese market.
 
Since that time, Qiagen has integrated assay development projects between PG Biotech and artus, which had become Qiagen’s assay development center of excellence in Hamburg, Germany.
 
The Qiagen spokesman said the new joint venture would not replace any existing capabilities within Qiagen’s organization but rather would “add completely new development resources to Qiagen.”
 
He added that Dx Assays would collaborate with all of the firm’s existing development facilities, including Qiagen Gaithersburg, which is the location of the Digene operations. Qiagen CEO Schatz mentioned during the firm’s third-quarter conference call that China, in particular, is an important market for growing HPV test revenues for the company.
 
The number of Qiagen employees in Asia also has risen sharply over the past couple of years, from 102 at the end of the second quarter of 2005 to 359 in the third quarter of 2007.
 
For the third quarter of 2007, the firm said its sales in Asia represented approximately 9 percent of its total revenues of $176.6 million, up 29 percent at constant exchange rates.

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