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Eppendorf Goes from Micropipetters to Microarrays, Acquiring Belgian Company

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Lab equipment giant Eppendorf, of Hamburg, Germany, has made the leap into the microarray market, with the acquisition last week of a majority interest in Belgian microarray startup Advanced Array Technologies.

Eppendorf made the acquisition in order to produce a microarray product that it could sell through its well-established global distribution network. The new unit, Eppendorf Array Technologies, plans to introduce its first microarrays in this lineup before the end of 2002. In 2003, the company plans to launch additional biochips as well as instruments for processing and analysis.

Eppendorf had been monitoring the microarray market for about a year and a half before entering into it, said Joren Peplow, the company’s director of public relations. The company chose Advanced Array, a 1999 spinoff from the University of Namur in Belgium, out of a field of a “few dozen companies worldwide,” said Peplow.

Advanced Array won out over the other potential acquisitions because it included “not only the product but also the systematic applications,” said Peplow. The Namur facility will include readers, scanners, and spotters as well as arrays. Also, he said “we were looking for a company with a proprietary technology platform and some experience. Their technology is assured by patents and a solid base of IP.“ Finally, the price was right. Eppendorf did not disclose the amount it paid for Advanced Array, but said that over the next two to three years, it would invest Ý20 million in the microarray division. This investment process will focus on streamlining Advanced Array’s chip technology so that it meets Eppendorf standards and can be produced to keep up with Eppendorf’s distribution channels. This process will include buying production machines, scanners, spotters, and quality control products.

AAT, which has focused on developing biochips and transcription factor detection kits, currently has 15 employees and is led by José Remacle, a microarray scientist with the Faculté Universitaires Notre Dame de la Paix in Namur, Belgium. Eppendorf said it would hire some people to complement this force, but is not sure how many. Eppendorf Array Technology sees itself as competing with certain parts of Affymetrix’s product lines, but could also go into the diagnostics and protein chip area.

“We believe this is a very promising area, this is why we did pursue it, but we don’t want to overpromise it,” said Peplow.

— MMJ

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