Tecan will likely increase its array tools-related sales and marketing presence in China next year to accommodate what it calls a growing customer base, company officials said this week.
The Swiss company, which sells products for sample management, preparation, hybridization, and scanning and analysis, opened its Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai in October to support a growing customer base in the region.
Siegfried Sasshofer, head of global marketing for Tecan’s microarray product unit, told BioArray News in an e-mail this week that the firm intends to add personnel to support microarray-related products in China at the Shanghai office, and hopes to begin sales and marketing training sessions there in February.
“We are focusing on this market by investing in additional sales offices and service structure, ideally to support our growing number of customers” in the Asia-Pacific region, Sasshofer said. “We will emphasize the strategic importance of China to Tecan with an investment in additional people, both with product and application expertise, which will offer better support to our customers.”
Sasshofer declined to discuss how large Tecan’s current sales force in China is, or how many personnel the firm hopes to add next year.
According to Tecan’s 2007 annual financial report, released in March, sales in Asia jumped 50 percent to CHF 56 million ($52 million) over 2006. In comparison, sales in Europe dropped 7 percent to CHF 155 million last year, while North American sales rose 2 percent to CHF 189 million for the same period. Total sales for the year were CHF 414 million.
Tecan’s microarray-related products are divided between three product lines: detection, which includes scanners such as its PowerScanner, which was launched in June; liquid-handling robotic products, which includes systems such as its HS 4800 Pro and HS 400 Pro Hybridization Stations; and REMP products and components for liquid storage (see BAN 5/13/2008).
“We have seen growth in pharma and biotech, but we see the opportunity being greatest in emerging microarray-based diagnostics.”
Sasshofer also said Tecan plans to conduct in February a strategic sales and service meeting with Tecan employees and all distributors within the Asia Pacific region, which for Tecan includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand. Sasshofer said the meeting would focus on Tecan’s “next steps to grow, product introductions, and marketing activities.”
Ralph Beneke, Tecan’s microarray product manager, told BioArray News last week that he hopes to hold sales workshops on new products like the firm’s 2-micron-resolution PowerScanner and its Infinite 200 Nanoquant multi-mode microtiter plate reader platform “so that more Tecan product experts can help distributors to sell more efficiently when talking to end users about needs on applications.”
Sasshofer estimated that the potential market size for the Tecan’s scanners and plate readers in China alone is currently between $10 million and $15 million. Before opening its Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai, Tecan relied on a sales representative office in Beijing to support local distributors for the company’s “main markets in diagnostic and life science research,” Sasshofer said.
Tecan’s Chinese distributors include Eastwin International in Hong Kong; Vastec Medical in Hong Kong; Beijing Shoubo Medical Equipment in Beijing; Union Net Credit Tech in Tianjin; and Chinawealth Far East International Biotechnology Development in Beijing.
According to Sasshofer, these distribution channels will be maintained as the firm increases its direct presence in China. “We have set up a successful structure of direct support and distributors, which offers excellent support for big multinational companies as well as small research labs and diagnostic customers,” he said.
Tecan will face competition in China from a number of different competitors that vary according to product line. In terms of array-related products, one major focus for Tecan this year has been its PowerScanner, which was designed to scan array images with up to 2-micron resolution.
Tecan launched the new scanner in June in response to new, higher-density open-platform chips sold by Agilent Technologies and Roche NimbleGen, and the release coincided with the launches of several new scanners sold by rivals including Agilent, Molecular Devices, and Innopsys (see BAN 6/3/2008, BAN 6/10/2008).
Specifically, Molecular Devices, part of MDS Analytical Technologies, in July launched its Axon 4300A and the Axon 4400A, the second of which can scan arrays at the 2.5-micron level; Innopsys in June launched the InnoScan 900, a 1-micron resolution system; and Agilent in June released a new version of its DNA Microarray Scanner that allows users to scan array images at up to 2-micron resolution.
Varshal Davé, director of genomics marketing at Molecular Devices, last week told BioArray News that the company has seen increased growth in its Chinese sales this year.
“We have seen growth in pharma and biotech, but we see the opportunity being greatest in emerging microarray-based diagnostics,” Davé said. “I think everyone in this industry agrees that the barriers to entry into the clinical market are lower outside of the US, and China is no exception.
“There appears to be a greater willingness to approve microarrays for diagnostic use in China, and therefore, we expect this trend to impact our scanner sales in a positive way,” Davé added.
Davé said that Molecular Devices relies on a direct sales team for almost all products, with the exception of its Axon GenePix line of microarray systems and the Arcturus line of laser capture microdissection systems, both of which are distributed by Cold Spring Biotech from their offices in Beijing and Taipei.
“Cold Spring Biotech has been representing our genomics products for most of this decade and is a well-established and highly successful partner in the area,” Davé said.
Stephane Le Brun, CEO of Carbonne, France-based Innopsys, told BioArray News last week that his company has witnessed a similar increase in demand for its scanners in the Chinese market.
“The Chinese market is important for us, and we can see also that it is growing faster than Korea or Japan,” Le Brun said.
This year the company began using Hong Kong-based GeneCompany to sell its scanners and software products in China. Le Brun said the partnership is “successful” and that Innopsys hopes to expand its scanner base in 2009, though it has no plans to add direct sales there. Concerning end users, Le Brun said Innopsys’ customers tend to be mostly research or academic labs.
According to Chris Grimley, senior marketing director of genomics at Agilent, China has been a “growth market in the academic, government and major service provider areas.” Agilent’s life-sciences business has been increasingly active in China. The firm provided China’s Anti-Doping Agency with 18 liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry units and 19 gas chromatography/MS units for drug testing at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
In May 2005, Agilent set up a training center in Shanghai for its Asian customer support teams (see BAN 5/18/2005). Grimley this week said that the company maintains a “dedicated sales force” in China to support all of its array-related products, including scanners.