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Qiagen Gains New Array Resources in SABiosciences Deal

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Justin Petrone

Looking to strengthen its pharma business, Qiagen last week signed an agreement to acquire SABiosciences for $90 million.

SABiosciences, based in Frederick, Md., employs around 100 workers. Its primary product family includes more than 100 real-time PCR assay panels for analyzing DNA, RNA, epigenetic, and microRNA targets in biological pathways associated with specific diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and immune and cardiovascular disorders; as well as apoptosis, signal transduction, and toxicology pathways.

Qiagen said that the assay panels are used in biomedical research and in the development of future drugs and diagnostics. In particular, the firm expects the acquisition to be highly synergistic with its September acquisition of UK-based companion diagnostics firm DxS.

"These assay panels are designed for use with and leveraged by Qiagen's sample and assay technologies and can be run on Qiagen instruments," CEO Peer Schatz said in a statement. "Subject to final closing, the transaction can create great value for both our strategy in pharma and our strategy in diagnostics."

Schatz told analysts during a third-quarter earnings call last week that Qiagen is acquiring SABiosciences to "expand its offering to offer formats that include complete panels that cover the whole molecular pathway or cover a whole disease." Schatz said that by "supplying disease- and pathway-focused panels, Qiagen can contribute to discovery and development engines of biomedical and pharmaceutical companies."

Qiagen said that it expects the acquisition to close in late December 2009, and that it will contribute revenues of approximately $24 million in sales in 2010. The acquisition is also expected to be neutral to earnings per share in 2010 and to significantly accretive to adjusted earnings per share in 2011.

While Qiagen is primarily interested in SABiosciences' PCR Arrays and bioinformatics tools, the company also offers a number of microarray resources, including its own line of focused GEArray gene-expression arrays, a menu of reagent kits, data-analysis software, and core services on the Agilent Technologies and Illumina platforms.

Jeff Hung, SABiosciences' director of marketing, told BioArray News this week that "PCR Array technology is the main growth driver" for the company, but that it still offers GEArray products and services, in addition to Agilent- and Illumina-based services.

SABiosciences, formerly Super Array, initially focused on its GEArray product line before introducing its PCR Array panels in 2005. The company recently announced its intention to discontinue the GEArray product line by Jan. 1, moving all existing customers over to either its RT² PCR Array or its Agilent and Illumina services.

"The RT² profiler PCR Array pathway-focused gene expression analysis service, Agilent and Illumina whole-genome gene expression analysis service should suffice all your gene expression service needs," the firm said in a statement at the time.

GEArrays are focused chips for studying gene expression associated with a particular biological pathway or disease state. Each array includes between 100 and 500 relevant, pathway-specific genes printed on a nylon membrane matrix, according to the firm. SABiosciences sells catalog and custom GEArrays, as well as its GEArray Gene Expression Analysis Software Suite, a web-based data acquisition and data analysis.

SABiosciences' Oligo GEArrays are available two formats. The first, the HybTube format, is designed to be processed in a mini-hybridization tube using a standard hybridization oven. The second, the HybPlate format, is designed to be processed in an eight-well hybridization plate using an incubator.

The company also sells a number of related reagent kits, including its ArrayGrade FFPE RNA Isolation Kit for the isolation of total RNA from formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded blocks and slides; its ArrayGrade Total RNA Isolation Kit for the isolation of total RNA from cells, fresh tissues, and other biological samples; and its RNASafer RNA Stabilization Reagent for long-term storage and stabilization of cell and tissue samples before RNA isolation.

SABiosciences also sells other kits, such as its TrueLabeling-PicoAMP labeling kit for microarray hybridization, and its ArrayGrade cRNA Cleanup Kit for purification of cRNA target samples before hybridization. The firm also supplies the GEAhyb hybridization solution and a Chemiluminescent Detection Kit for the detection of biotinylated probes or targets hybridized to the microarray.

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Additionally, SABiosciences sells GEArray Express Thermoshakers, a hybridization oven with a shaking platform for the Oligo GEArray HybPlate format; and Multi-Chamber HybPlates and seals for the Oligo GEArray HybPlate format.

SABiosciences' core services include whole-genome or focused panel genotyping using the Illumina Infinium Genotyping system, as well as whole-genome expression via its Illumina gene-expression service. The company also offers gene-expression and comparative genomic hybridization services on the Agilent platform.

Hung said that the Agilent and Illumina services "complement" SABiosciences' PCR Array business in their "whole-genome coverage and genetic testing – SNP, copy number variation and other applications."

It is unclear what use SABiosciences' array resources will have for Qiagen. The company did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the deal.
Qiagen in the past has served the array market primarily as a reagent vendor. In 2002, the company partnered with Swiss bioanalytical services company Zeptosens, now part of Bayer, to launch the SensiChip platform. It also has several agreements to supply reagents to firms selling array products like Affymetrix and Osmetech Molecular Diagnostics.

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