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Buying Blueshift for $13M, MDS Adds Whole-Well, High-Speed Imaging Ability

MDS Analytical Technologies announced last week that it has acquired fluorimetry-based screening platform manufacturer Blueshift Biotechnologies for $13 million in a bid to expand its cellular-analysis chops and strengthen its global sales and service muscle.
MDS said it will try to leverage Blueshift’s IsoCyte technology to offer customers more complete high-content screening and high-content analysis products, an MDS official told CBA News last week.
“MDS has been growing its cellular imaging business for a number of years now, since it launched its ImageXpress platform,” said Michael Sjaastad, marketing director of cellular imaging for MDS Analytical Technologies’ Molecular Devices business. “We have been aware of the Blueshift instrument, the IsoCyte, for some time, and it is a really good fit for us because it fills a gap in our speed and resolution continuum across the needs of our customers.”
The IsoCyte is a rapid imaging system that can be used for high-throughput-scale, image-based screening, while MDS’ ImageXpress line, which consists of the Micro camera-based high-content instrument and the Ultra confocal instrument, provides a fast and high-resolution instrument that is appropriate for high-content screening.
MDS plans to integrate the IsoCyte instrument into MDS Analytical Technologies’ cellular analysis environment, and MDS Analytical Technologies plans to make the IsoCyte compatible with its MetaXpress software, MDCStore database, and AcuityXpress software for image analysis, according to Sjaastad.
The IsoCyte “will benefit from integration into that existing environment, and our customers will benefit from having another technology that they can interact with through software that they are already familiar with,” he said.
The timeline for the integration has not yet been determined, said Sjaastad.
“We are very excited, because the capabilities of the IsoCyte instrument to read whole wells at high speed opens the doors to some new areas in the cellular imaging business that we were less involved in with our ImageXpress instruments,” Sjaastad said.

“We are very excited, because the capabilities of the IsoCyte instrument to read whole wells at high speed opens the doors to some new areas in the cellular imaging business that we were less involved in with our ImageXpress instruments.”

He also said the company is considering expanding its potential footprint in general cellular imaging and bioimaging applications. For example, the IsoCyte’s ability to read whole wells will allow MDS Analytical Technologies to move into bioindustrial applications such as colony screening in oncology research, and into the area of whole-organism screening, such as zebrafish, because it demands a large field of view.
“This is all very compatible with what we do already, but it’s a matter of having a specific advantage in things like that,” said Sjaastad. With Blueshift in hand, “I think we are evolving into a life-sciences company.”
Blueshift’s rivals include Applied Biophysics and Acea BioSciences.
Sjaastad said that most of the cellular-imaging product lines that Molecular Devices has competed with — among them Evotec’s Opera, Amersham’s IN Cell Analyzer, and Cellomics’ ArrayScan — have been absorbed by larger companies such as PerkinElmer, GE Life Sciences, Thermo Fisher, and Becton Dickinson.
Blueshift’s technologies are “quite compatible from a customer perspective,” said Sjaastad. “It is an ideal time for their instrument, which has a number of customer placements and a global sales and support structure, to integrate with an expert cellular imaging and HCS environment, which we provide.” He declined to disclose ImageXpress’ installed base.
“It was a natural fit for us to expand our footprint and grow our business,” Sjaastad added.
Kim Lee, director of investor relations for MDS, added that the company’s acquisition of Molecular Devices in the second quarter of last year provided the company with a very strong product portfolio, “giving our customers tools for drug discovery and drug development, in addition to a global sales force, so that we could make acquisitions such as Blueshift, that has a strong technology but no sales force (see CBA News, 2/2/2007).”  
Avoiding Integration Blues
All of Blueshift’s employees are expected to join MDS, Sjaastad said.
Because four miles separate Blueshift’s and Molecular Devices’ headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., MDS officials are considering consolidating the facilities as well, said Sjaastad.
“We have a three-building campus in Sunnyvale, but I think in the short term, it will be business as usual for [Blueshift],” Sjaastad said. “They are certainly integrating into our sales, marketing, and engineering R&D structure.”
Molecular Devices is considered a prominent player in cell-based assays and drug discovery, and players in those markets have a big commitment to cellular imaging, which is evolving to be a huge component of those areas in general, said Sjaastad.
“I think that what we are doing fits that strategy,” he said.

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