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Hologic Add-ons Continue Test Consolidation, Scalability With Panther MDx System

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NEW YORK – On the back of a first fiscal quarter of 9 percent revenue growth for its molecular diagnostics business, Hologic on Wednesday announced it is adding functionality to its main source of MDx growth, the Panther system, first launched in 2010.

For laboratory customers interested in consolidating testing onto one platform, the products Hologic announced this week are specifically designed to enable flexibility and scalability, Kevin Thornal, division president of diagnostic solutions at Hologic, said in an interview.

The new functionality "allows our lab partners to build, grow, and customize the solutions they need based on the tests they have in place today and what they want to achieve in the future," he said. "It really helps to future-proof their investment in the Panther system."

Hologic's Panther system is a fully automated testing platform with sample-to-result automation, adaptable workflow options, and a consolidated testing menu.

The company announced the launch of the new products in the US and Europe as part of a product portfolio it has named Panther Scalable Solutions.

Two new elements within the Panther system — Panther Plus and Panther Link — are immediately available and a third, Panther Trax, is in development with an anticipated launch later in 2020.

Hologic said that with Panther Plus, labs can load more consumables directly on its Panther instrument, allowing up to 13.5 consecutive hours of walk-away time. "That brings efficiency and ease of use and enables [laboratorians] to run more assays on the Panther at one time versus having to wait for longer periods of the day to run the assays," Thornal said.

Panther Link is a software solution that creates a virtual connection that enables multiple Panther instruments to communicate with one another and function within a single, streamlined workflow.

A "conglomerate" of Panthers "can trade information back and forth, allowing a lab to further increase efficiencies," Thornal said. A lab director, for example, can monitor a fleet of Panthers from one command center.

The firm is developing a third component, Panther Trax, to physically and electronically link multiple Panther instruments into a single workcell. Panther Trax digitally connects systems and enables moving specimens from machine to machine based on what is required during a test run, Thornal said.

Within the Panther Scalable Solutions portfolio, the company also includes its Panther Fusion system, which it had launched in 2016 and enables PCR testing in addition to transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) testing already available on Hologic's systems.

Panther Fusion adds to Hologic's overall IVD assay menu and provides open access functionality that enables laboratorians to run lab-developed tests.

Fusion is available as a system or as a Panther Fusion module that can be attached to existing Panther systems in the field to extend testing capabilities. 

Robert Boorstein, medical director for oncology and esoteric testing at Brooklyn, New York-based Lenco Diagnostic Laboratories, said that his facility anticipates implementing the new components of the Panther Scalable Solutions portfolio "fairly quickly" following their release.

The laboratory had been using a Panther and an Hologic Tigris molecular diagnostic system for women's health testing and ran viral load tests on a Roche Cobas platform.

About nine months ago, Lenco added new Panthers to the existing platform and discontinued use of the Tigris and Roche platforms. "Currently, the laboratory runs all of its women's health and viral load assays on three Panther systems, one of which has a Panther Fusion module," Boorstein said.

While overall, the laboratory runs about 7.5 million tests per year, its volume of testing on the Panther system is around 150,000 tests per year, and around 2,000 tests per year on the Panther Fusion module. That's largely because the menu on the Panther system is more suited to the types of tests ordered at the lab, Boorstein noted.

Switching to the new installation and consolidating testing onto the three Panther Systems enabled significant cost savings for the laboratory, he said, adding that Hologic is "very aggressive" in offering favorable pricing to entice customers away from other vendors.

Hologic had announced last week molecular diagnostics revenues of $178.5 million for its first fiscal quarter of 2020 quarter. It's CEO Steve MacMillan said on a call to discuss the firm's financial results that the firm's MDx business was among the most important contributors of overall company growth, spurred by a broad test menu and ongoing acceleration of Panther system placements in more geographic locations. More customers want to consolidate testing with a supplier that provides a comprehensive offering of MDx assays, MacMillan said.

MacMillan noted that as part of its push for growth, Hologic has upgraded its talent and aligned its commercial structure in its diagnostics business "to help lab customers of all sizes" grow their businesses.

Thornal said this week that its organizational alignment involved closely connecting the activities of its global sales and marketing teams. Its marketing team and sales teams out in the field all report to the same vice presidents, and that has led to sales representatives getting the marketing support they need to "have meaningful conversations with potential and current customers," Thornal said.

The organizational alignment and talent upgrade also provided a foundation for Hologic's recent product launches, he said. Though the firm is not disclosing assays in development, "the Panther system will continue to remain the foundation for additional expansions into areas that we play in today as well some expansion into other areas along the way," Thornal said.

The firm now has more than 1,700 Panther system placements globally and continues to place 200 or more instruments each year.

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