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Agilent's Array Business Gains RNA QC Application through Lab901 Buy

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By Justin Petrone

Agilent Technologies this week acquired for an undisclosed price Lab901, a UK-based electrophoresis equipment and consumables company that sells products for DNA, RNA, and protein analysis.

Lab901 develops and markets its TapeStation benchtop electrophoresis instrument, ScreenTape plastic-based consumables and associated reagents. Founded in 2001 in Edinburgh, Lab901 employs around 45 people.

Patrick Kaltenbach, vice president of Agilent's liquid-phase separations business, said the ScreenTape system "provides a very versatile, automated, and scalable-throughput gel electrophoresis" offering, and complements the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm's BioAnalyzer platform and G7100 Electrophoresis System.

But while Kaltenbach said the purchase would "address customer needs across the entire span of electrophoresis life-science applications," Lab901 also provides applications for array users. For instance, Oxford Gene Technology, an Agilent certified service provider, uses Lab901's RNA QC ScreenTape platform to measure the quality of the RNA samples it runs on its microarrays (BAN 1/12/2010).

An Agilent company spokesperson this week noted that the Lab901 system "can be used as [an] RNA and cDNA QC tool for array-based gene expression studies." He did not elaborate.

Lab901's ScreenTape R6K product in particular "streamlines microarray target preparation through rapid monitoring" of RNA samples, according to the firm. Using the system, customers can analyze RNA samples by loading a ScreenTape consumable into the TapeStation. The TapeStation then delivers the ScreenTape Degradation Value, or SDV, a quality metric for total RNA.

According to Lab901, its platform "eliminates steps such as gel-reagent preparation, chip priming, and chip-vortexing, and avoids problems associated with cross-priming and sample carryover since individual microgels are used for each sample analysis." The firm markets the Lab901 ScreenTape R6K system as a "fully automated method for RNA QC" for analyzing RNA upstream of microarray analysis.

Lab901 CEO Joel Fearnley said in a statement that the firm's products and team are a "perfect fit" with Agilent. Fearnley and the firm's employees will join the company.

In late 2009, Lab901 raised about $4 million in private-equity funding from a group of UK investors to help it develop its products and to increase international sales of the ScreenTape platform. The company received ISO:9001 certification last year (BAN 6/10/2010).

An Agilent Company

According to Agilent's spokesperson, Lab901 will be integrated into the firm's Liquid Phase Analysis Division, within the company’s Life Sciences Group. Lab901's products are "complementary" to Agilent's "strong electrophoresis portfolio," which includes the Bioanalyzer and the G7100 system, he said.

Moreover, he said the ScreenTape system is "ideally suited for sample quality control in next-generation sequencing and gene-expression workflows, as well as protein electrophoresis and DNA fragment analysis in core labs." Markets for the system include bio-pharma R&D and quality control, as well as academic and government institutions, he said. "Agilent has a strong presence in all these markets and is meeting customer demands with the acquisition of Lab901's product portfolio," the spokesperson noted.

Post-acquisition Lab901 is being operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Agilent, the spokesperson added. "Because Lab901 is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Agilent, Lab901 employees are continuing to work for Lab901," he said. "In the coming months, they will become Agilent employees when the formal integration of Lab901 occurs." He did not elaborate.

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