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Qiagen Expands Its Protein Analysis Play With Two More Buys; Eyes Dx Applications

Continuing its push into the protein analysis market, Qiagen will spend up to $17.6 million to acquire the assets of LumiCyte and the entire bioanalytical business of SuNyx.

Both companies make products for peptide and protein sample preparation that run on mass spectrometry instrumentation and will provide Qiagen with two more platforms for its rapidly emerging protein-analysis business.

"Our M&A machinery is running full speed," Ulrich Schreik, Qiagen's vice president of corporate business development, told BioCommerce Week. "We see huge opportunities for us in the future, and we are very focused on the pre-analytical part of life science."

The acquisitions come one month after Qiagen bought protein crystallization sample prep shop Nextal Biotechnology (see BioCommerce Week 7/7/2005). Qiagen officials noted that the tools could eventually be used in molecular diagnostic applications — a portion of the life-sciences market coveted by Qiagen rival Invitrogen, which has been building its own proteomics business through the recent acquisitions of Zymed, Dynal, and Caltag (see $8 million



Zymed




$60 million



Dynal



April 2005


$391 million



Caltag



May 2005


$20 million


Lucier also said, ""Undoubtedly there are technologies we can add to enhance our ability to perform in this business model."" But for now, Invitrogen plans to aggressively pursue deals as an OEM supplier and take market share from the other reagent makers.


Invitrogen will let its larger diagnostic partners handle the regulatory process, while the firm sticks to its role as a supplier, according to Lucier.


The firm also plans additional collaborations on biomarkers, such as the partnership with the Mayo Clinic signed this past December (see BioCommerce Week 12/9/2004), and is negotiating a similar collaboration with a well-known, yet undisclosed, cancer research center. The company expects to announce that deal in the second half of this year.


Another major consideration for the firm in playing in the molecular diagnostics space is its sample-preparation portfolio, and this was the key reason Invitrogen purchased DNA Research Innovations and its ChargeSwitch nucleic acid-purification technology in October. With this technology, the firm is taking aim at competitor Beckman Coulter, which enhanced its own sample-prep abilities with the recent purchase of Agencourt Biosciences (see BioCommerce Week 5/5/2005).


Invitrogen also fired a salvo across the bow of competitors saying that its sample-prep technology can work well on a variety of molecular diagnostic platforms. ""There are a lot of different existing installed base platforms out there right now, and we want to put our chemistries across as many of them as possible, including entrenched competitors who might not necessarily want us to do that,"" Lucier said.


There are also plans in the works to collaborate with an established imaging technologies partner on molecular imaging products, though company officials wouldn't name any potential candidates.


In a somewhat unusual move, Illumina sent a representative to the meeting to provide an update on the oligonucleotide collaboration between Invitrogen and Illumina. The firms reiterated their plan to launch the platform, based on Illumina's Oligator technology, and snatch up market share by providing lower-cost oligos through Invitrogen's expansive customer base (see BioCommerce Week 12/23/2004).


Lucier suggested that the partnership with Illumina could command a 50-percent market share in the next three to four years. The firms will be competing with the likes of IVT, Sigma-Aldrich, and Operon Biotechnologies.


One other noteworthy piece of information that was revealed during the webcast was that Invitrogen is evaluating adding instrumentation to its offerings. During a Q&A session, Shawn Smith, director of Invitrogen's BioProduction unit, said, ""Do we want to have a specific application platform that's automated within our own offering? The answer to that is, 'Yeah.' I think that's inevitable. I think we have to have the ability to offer the complete offering. It's a broader product portfolio than just the chemistries exclusively.""


Company officials declined to elaborate on what kind of instrument that might be.


— Edward Winnick ([email protected])


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"Our M&A machinery is running full speed. We see huge opportunities for us in the future, and we are very focused on the pre-analytical part of life science."

Lumicyte

Qiagen will pay up to $16 million for "key assets" from LumiCyte, including its Surface Tension Segmented (STS) biochips for MALDI mass spec. Initially, Qiagen will pay $3 million in cash, followed by $4 million after 18 months and $5 million after 30 months, depending on whether certain undisclosed financial targets are met. In addition, Qiagen said that it may make a milestone payment of $4 million after 5 years.

The STS biochip allows for "immediate on-chip fractionation and concentration," said Schreik. "We don't have to pass the sample through devices and other things before. So, we bring together fractionation and selection as well as concentration prior to the analysis."

Achim Ribbe, Qiagen's executive director of business development, added that the acquired technology could save time for researchers. "You're saving a couple of steps, and for that reason the on-chip pre-analytical solutions will be potentially automated much easier," he said.

LumiCyte has been collaborating since November 2004 with the Australian Proteome Analysis Facility to develop the STS biochip platform. The facility has been evaluating use of the platform in its biomarker discovery efforts. According to Mark Baker, CEO of the APAF, the researchers at the facility have been using the STS biochips with Applied Biosystems' mass spec instruments and have achieved "dramatically better limits of detection."

SuNyx

Qiagen's acquisition of Germany-based SuNyx, on the other hand, provides two sample-preparation platforms for liquid chromatrography MALDI mass spec called MPep and MProtChip. According to Qiagen, the technologies provide confinement of sample drops, which results in precise fraction collection from liquid chromatography runs, and ultimately results in "up to 100-fold increased sensitivity."

Qiagen will pay up to $1.6 million in total for SuNyx's assets — $800,000 initially and another $800,000 depending on certain undisclosed milestones. The acquisition of the assets builds on a previous licensing agreement between the firms.

Qiagen officials declined to disclose how many employees would join the firm from LumiCyte or SuNyx, but Ribbe said, "Certainly, we had to make sure that if we buy intellectual property and know-how that we are able to implement such know-how as fast as possible. Therefore, we took over all of the key employees" so the firm doesn't lose much time to market and can continue to serve current customers of the technologies.

The acquired technologies are designed for use with multiple mass spec platforms, and Ribbe estimated that there are more than 4,000 MALDI instruments placed worldwide that could use the sample-prep tools.


"It's not really used [for molecular diagnostics] routinely; it's mainly used for the discovery of biomarkers. However, by providing these technologies and increasing the sensitivity" Qiagen believes they will eventually be used in molecular diagnostics.

Sizing Up the Market

Qiagen officials provided what they called a conservative estimate of $60 million for the market size for these sample-prep products. But they noted that the market offers growth opportunities, and that the tools could eventually be used in molecular diagnostic applications.

"It's not really used [for molecular diagnostics] routinely," noted Ribbe. "It's mainly used for the discovery of biomarkers. However, by providing these technologies and increasing the sensitivity," he said the company believes the technologies might eventually be used in molecular diagnostics. He added that use of the products in that market partly "depends on the availability of low-cost, high-quality bench-top instruments ... but that's definitely in the long-term."

Ribbe cited Bruker, Millipore, and Ciphergen — formerly LumiCyte's sister company — as its chief competitors in the sample-prep area for protein analysis by mass spec.

Qiagen holds an exclusive license to use Procognia's on-chip protein glycoanalysis technology with its own QProteome line, which Ribbe said is complementary to the newly acquired technologies as well as those gained in the Nextal acquisition. And like LumiCyte, the firm has a collaboration with the APAF to co-develop proteomic sample prep tools.

According to Schreik, "There is always the question of to make or to buy, and because of time to market and some of the technologies out there it is much easier for us to buy or to partner rather than develop."

— Edward Winnick ([email protected])