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Fluidigm Pens Services Deal with IntegraGen in Europe


By Justin Petrone

Looking to expand its reach in Europe, Fluidigm this week said it has penned a deal with IntegraGen that will bring its products to researchers in France.

For South San Francisco, Calif.-based Fluidigm, the deal increases its presence in a European market where sales, though on the rise, remain "spotty" due to varying economic conditions from country to country.

Under the terms of the agreement, Evry, France-based IntegraGen will offer services to its customers using Fluidigm's BioMark system for genetic analysis and Access Array sample-preparation system for next-generation sequencing applications. In addition, IntegraGen will serve as a demonstration site for Fluidigm's technology.

The BioMark system enables users to perform digital gene expression, genotyping, and quantitative PCR using Fluidigm's 96.96 Dynamic Arrays, which are capable of producing 9,216 real-time qPCR data points per chip.

Access Array, meantime, is an integrated fluidic circuit that allows parallel amplification of 48 samples and the preparation of 48 sequencing libraries. Every reaction combines both an amplicon tagging and a barcoding step that enables all 48 amplicons to be multiplexed at the sequencing step, according to the firm.

Emmanuel Martin, director of genomic services at IntegraGen, said in a statement that the Fluidigm products will "complete the IntegraGen Services portfolio and put our lab at the cutting edge of genotyping and next-generation sequencing capabilities."

The company, an Illumina certified service provider, also offers SNP genotyping, DNA copy-number analysis, genome-wide hybrid identity profiling, and profiling for constitutional imbalances, among other services.

The IntegraGen deal enables Fluidigm to play in growing, if uneven, European markets. Spokesperson Howard High told BioArray News via e-mail this week that sales for Fluidigm in Europe have been "good, but spotty, largely depending on the state of the economy in a given country over the past year or two."

The privately held firm's "strongest penetration has been in England, and we have had good success in the Netherlands in the [agricultural biotechnology] space with our distributor Bioke," High said. "We had done remarkably well in Spain until their economy tanked, but we know our representative there is good and we will wait for things to get better assuming that sales will rekindle when Spain’s economy recovers."

France, meantime, is "just starting to grow for us and we have made a few really good sales there," High said. "We believe the IntegraGen deal can help accelerate this momentum."

Fluidigm also has a presence in Germany, though that play is nascent; High characterized it as being "probably a year behind France," but said the firm has "some good prospects there."

Fluidigm expects to announce a global purchasing deal with a "big ag-bio customer out of Germany" in coming weeks, he added.

Fluidigm already sells direct in France, the UK, and Germany, but did not have a services business in the French market until it began working with IntegraGen. Prior to the deal, the two firms had not collaborated.

"Services in these countries are usually provided by Fluidigm, but we tend to run demos as a possible step leading to a purchase; we don’t offer a service business in and of itself," High said. "That is where IntegraGen can fill a hole in our offering."

IntegraGen is not Fluidigm's only service provider in Europe. Some of Fluidigm's European distributors, such as Leiden-based Bioke, and Gotheburg, Sweden-based Tataa offer Fluidigm-based services as part of their portfolios.

High noted that Fluidigm has a "similar situation" in the Japanese market where the company sells direct but relies on local distributors to handle import and export requirements and provide services to Japanese customers.

"We were looking for a partner in France that could be a service provider for customers that wanted to use integrated fluidic circuit technology but weren’t ready to make a purchase of Fluidigm equipment," High said. "They were willing to be a demonstration lab for our customers that actually wanted to see the technology in action, but didn’t want to travel all the way to San Francisco for the chance to see the equipment operating in a working lab situation."

High said that some customers prefer to use Fluidigm's technology via a service either because they want to evaluate its performance; they don't have the capital to acquire equipment; or they have a small project that doesn't require them to invest in instrumentation.

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