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Genomic Solutions Expands Product Line with PerkinElmer Deal, GeneMachines Acquisition

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Q: What do a GeneMachines arrayer, a Cartesian hummingbird robot, and a PerkinElmer HybArray 12 DNA hybridization workstation all have in common?

A: They are all now made by Harvard Biosciences’ wholly owned subsidiary Genomic Solutions.

After closing its acquisition of GeneMachines on March 13, Genomic Solutions said it will now sell and market GeneMachines’ OmniGrid arrayers, as well as its line of genomic sample prep instruments. Addition-ally, Genomic Solutions will sell its GeneTac biochip system under the GeneMachines name, because “Gene Machines has invested more in that brand” than Genomic Solutions did in the GeneTac name, Genomic Solutions president Jeffrey Williams told BioArray News.

Williams said it made sense to keep selling the GeneTac system along with the OmniGrid microarrayers, since the GeneTac system “is purchased more for multitasking — colony picking, microarraying, membrane printing,” while the OmniGrid arrayers are designed specifically for creating microarrays.

But GNSL will discontinue sales of Cartesian microarrayers, which it has been selling since it acquired Irvine, Calif.-based Cartesian Instruments at the end of 2001. The company will, however, still sell these robots for liquid handling: It will just no longer sell contact print heads on the robots. “The big opportunity for us in the Cartesian [area] is in liquid dispensing,” said Williams. “The personnel in that area are focused on the non-contact liquid handling technology,” he said, adding that the company will keep the Irvine facility open, along with the GeneMachines office in San Carlos, Calif.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Genomic Solutions announced a new agreement with long-time distribution partner PerkinElmer, under which PerkinElmer will sell a specially modified version of the GeneTac microarray Hyb station under the name HybArray; and will also sell a Genomic Solutions gel cutting robot for proteomics under the name ProXcision. The products have operating software that is specific to PerkinElmer’s line of products.

Genomic Solutions and PerkinElmer initiated their distribution agreement in December 1999, when PerkinElmer made: an equity investment in the company, acquired an option to obtain control of the company, and received exclusive distribution rights for certain GNSL products outside the US and Japan. The companies changed this agreement to a non-exclusive one in early 2002, shortly after PerkinElmer acquired Packard Biosciences. Since GNSL was itself acquired by Harvard Biosciences last October, the deal has been in limbo.

Williams said the arrangement with PerkinElmer had “evolved” once again this month because “both parties thought it would be good to avoid confusion” that would have come with both selling the same product under the same name.

Additionally, “PerkinElmer has acknowledged that we have experience in life science sample preparation and in hybridization. For us, there was an opportunity to use their distribution system,” he said.

While Harvard Bioscience has a well-oiled network of laboratory customers with its catalog supplies, PerkinElmer’s reach is still orders of magnitude greater than Harvard Bio’s: While PerkinElmer’s sales totaled $1.5 billion last year, Harvard Bioscience had a mere $57.4 million in revenues for 2002, and only had $15 million cash in the bank at the end of December.

Harvard Biosciences said it expects the GeneMachines acquisition to add $6 million in revenues for 2003 — part of its previously-stated strategy of growth through acquisition.

With this acquisition, Harvard Bio is also looking to “maximize” the sales and distribution benefits a, according to a company statement. The company is integrating Gene-Machines sales and service functions into the Genomic Solutions organization, which is now somewhat integrated with the parent company.

This integration also involves staff changes. GeneMachines founder and CEO Scott Hunicke-Smith has stepped down, and Patricia Gray, who was running the R&D department and had run the sales department, has been promoted to vice president of the GeneMachines product and supply division of Genomic Solutions.

— MMJ

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