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Agilent's Cartagenia Buy Adds Software Component to Oncology, Constitutional Disorder Products

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Seeking to offer a complete set of next-generation sequencing and array products for customers in the oncology and constitutional disorder domains, Agilent said this week that it is buying Belgian firm Cartagenia for an undisclosed amount.

Following the acquisition, expected to be completed by May 19, Cartagenia will be the newest division in Agilent's Diagnostics and Genomics group, which also covers the company's genomics, pathology, companion diagnostics, and reagents businesses. The group is headed by Jacob Thaysen, who serves as both the president of the group and senior vice president of Agilent. Herman Verrelst, Cartagenia's current CEO, will head up the new Cartagenia division and report to Thaysen.

The acquisition follows a distribution partnership that the two companies announced over a year ago that allowed Agilent to sell annual licenses to Cartagenia's Bench Lab CNV software to small and medium-sized cytogenetic laboratories. Bench Lab CNV is used to analyze copy number variation and is one of several products based on Cartagenia's proprietary Bench Lab platform, which is used by genetics, clinical, and pathology laboratories to assess, report on, and share genomic variant data generated from sequencing instruments and microarrays.

The acquisition will enable Agilent to combine products from both companies' portfolios to provide a more complete analysis pipeline to clinical genetics and molecular oncology customers. Exact product integration plans are still being defined but the companies are focusing specifically on integrating Cartagenia's Bench platform and Agilent's existing pathology and genomics businesses.

The combined company intends to provide a complete workflow that will support the efforts of labs working in constitutional disorders and inherited diseases as well as in pathology — especially cancer — and enable them to incorporate molecular and genomic information into their diagnostic workflows, Thaysen told GenomeWeb. Although sequencing has become more affordable, sample prep and data interpretation remain barriers from many labs, especially those at smaller community hospitals, he said. Agilent and Cartagenia aim to simplify the task by providing fully developed workflows that enable customers to easily access, make sense of, and use this information.

Both companies already market products for the aforementioned areas and hope to increase their combined footprint by providing end-to-end solutions that cover data generation through to analysis and interpretation, Thaysen said. Agilent's SureSelect and Haloplex target enrichment products for NGS and its Human Genome CGH microarrays for CNV already occupy "strong positions" among researchers working in clinical labs, he said. Further, Agilent already offers its SureCall analysis solution for variant calling tasks, and its Cytogenomics software for detecting copy number changes, he added. The output from these software solutions is the input to Cartagenia's platform, which provides the final component of labs' workflows — tools that enable researchers to make sense of the information coming from NGS panels and microarrays.

Since Cartagenia's products are already being used in labs that work in the oncology and constitutional disorder space, buying the company gives Agilent direct access to a ready pool of customers, especially in the European market, Thaysen said.

The agreement also benefits Cartagenia by providing stronger support and services to its customers, Verrelst told GenomeWeb. It also gives the company the support and backing it needs to reach a much broader pool of potential customers as clinical use of NGS and microarrays increases.

"We've been working with [Agilent] for quite a while [and] they have this global presence [and] this ambition to develop more into this clinical diagnostics space," Verrelst said. "We have our own sales force with which we have [achieved] quite a good market share already but we don't have this same global presence."

Moreover, having Agilent's sales force handle market outreach frees Cartagenia to focus on its true forte: designing, developing, and launching new products, Verrelst added. As noted, the company already has products for analyzing data for oncology and constitutional disorders, but it is also involved in a number of initiatives to develop products for reproductive genetics that it plans to release in near future, Verrelst said.

As part of the acquisition, all 36 Cartagenia employees will be offered employment within Agilent to keep the team intact. Also, the company will retain its R&D office in Leuven, Belgium and its sales and service facility in Boston. The company will also retain its name, with the addendum 'an Agilent company.' Cartagenia does not expect current customers to experience any disruptions in service, and clients will be able to license Cartagenia's solutions as standalone offerings without purchasing other Agilent products, Thaysen said. Current customers include the University of Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Cartagenia will also honor existing agreements that it has with other companies, including N-of-One, MedGenome, and CollabRx, Verrelst said.



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