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After Acquisition, Agilent Plans to Combine Stratagene’ Kits and Software with its Own

Six months after buying Stratagene for $246 million, Agilent this week shed more light on its plans for the business, which has functioned as an autonomous division since June.
Nick Roelofs, vice president of Agilent’s Life Sciences Solutions Unit, said the company intends to maintain Stratagene’s brand, organization, and platform-independent product line of reagents and bioinformatics software.
At the same time, Agilent is looking to combine some of its existing products with some of Stratagene’s tools to benefit array users where possible. For instance, the company eventually plans to merge Stratagene’s bioinformatics software into one product where Agilent has similar products today.
“Our long-term goal is clearly to incorporate the full range of capabilities from Stratagene to complete and improve application workflows for Agilent’s customers,” Roelofs told BioArray News via e-mail.
Structurally, Stratagene will continue to remain a division of Agilent and will continue developing and supplying its own product brands, said Roelofs. He said that Agilent’s genomics team and Stratagene’s sales and support organizations were being integrated to better reach customers. How the products would be combined was not immediately clear.
Through its acquisition of Stratagene, Agilent gained several product lines that directly serve the array market, though Stratagene never sold chips itself. For example, Stratagene offers Universal Reference RNAs for human, mouse, and rat that were used in the US Food and Drug Administration-sponsored Microarray Quality Control project (see BAN 6/12/2007).
On the controls side, Stratagene offers its SpotReport array validation system, which controls for variability in any genome microarray, facilitates normalization, monitors hybridization specificity, and checks overall data quality, according to its website.
Stratagene also sells cDNA labeling kits, such as its FairPlay III Microarray Labeling Kit for use with several products and applications.
Roelofs said that Agilent intends to combine Stratagene’s labeling methods with its own in future product launches. “We are in the process of evolving the kits offered by Stratagene as well as launching new sample-preparation products which complement the detection products within Agilent’s portfolio,” Roelofs said.
“Our long-term goal is clearly to incorporate the full range of capabilities from Stratagene to complete and improve application workflows for Agilent’s customers,” he added. Roelofs did not specify how the methods would be combined in the yet-to-be-launched products.
In terms of bioinformatics, Stratagene sells PathwayArchitect software for pathway analysis and ArrayAssist for array data analysis. A key component of Stratagene’s menu for array users is that they can use it for any platform, including Affymetrix, Illumina, and Agilent. Agilent already began transferring some of ArrayAssist’s capabilities to its GeneSpring software in August.

“The longer-term goal is to merge the bioinformatics solutions into one product where we have similar products today.”

As BioArray News’ sister publication BioInform reported at the time, GeneSpring version 9.0, launched last fall, includes tools for analyzing splice variation, copy number variation, and comparative genomic hybridization (see BioInform 8/17/2007).
According to Roelofs, the plan for Stratagene’s other bioinformatics tools, like PathwayArchitect, is to maintain them for the time being, but to later integrate them into Agilent’s software offering.
“For the bioinformatics portfolio, we are committed to providing the same feature set of Stratagene’s current software offerings to all of our customers,” he said. “The longer-term goal is to merge the bioinformatics solutions into one product where we have similar products today.” 
One issue that Agilent has had to grapple with is how to sell Stratagene’s platforms to its life sciences customers when many users of Stratagene’s software were using rival array platforms made by either Affymetrix or Illumina. When Agilent acquired Stratagene, some software users said that Agilent might scuttle it in order to hurt its competitors.
“It's quite possible Agilent will consolidate the software into oblivion or reposition it," Jim Woodgett, a professor in the department of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, told BioArray News in April (see BAN 6/12/2007). "It remains to be seen how integrated the solutions will become. The Stratagene software was obviously tailored to multiple platforms," he said at the time.
Roelofs said this week that Agilent “has evolved into an open-systems provider” and that the features that made Stratagene products applicable to other platforms will not be phased out. “This is a feature of the current products, is highly valued by all customers and will be maintained,” he said.

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