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Fisher s Investment in Chemistry Shop Dyomics Expected to Boost Fluorescence Reagent Chops


Fisher Biosciences has acquired a large stake in Dyomics, establishing an "ongoing and long-term" collaboration with the German fluorescent dye maker, the firms said this week.

The deal could significantly bolster Fisher's ability to develop and manufacture custom fluorescence dyes for a number of its application areas — particularly cellular analysis and protein science — and diminish the company's reliance on third parties for fluorescence-based reagents. The investment could also make Fisher more competitive in this area against multi-tool vendor rivals such as Invitrogen.

"From a competitive point of view … the dye offering that Dyomics brings us would be similar to the Alexa dyes from [Invitrogen's] Molecular Probes," Fisher's CEO Leland Foster told CBA News this week.

Dyomics is a small, venture-backed fluorescent dye maker based in Jena, Germany. The company, which employs 10 staffers, has developed and manufactures a broad range of fluorescent dyes. In particular, the shop advertises its expertise in developing red and near-infrared dyes, which are highly sought after in cellular imaging, and enhanced Stokes shift dyes, which enable highly multiplexed assays.

As part of the deal, Fisher purchased all of Dyomics' shares from German venture capital company DEWB AG. Dyomics remains a private, independent company because it is still the majority shareholder, Peter Czerney, Dyomics' president and founder, told CBA News. Further financial details were not disclosed.

"From a competitive point of view, by comparison, the dye offering that Dyomics brings us would be similar to the Alexa dyes from [Invitrogen's] Molecular Probes."

Dyomics had previously forged OEM and distribution agreements with several companies in Europe and other regions outside Germany; the company's website said Dyomics last year generated more than 70 percent of its revenues abroad.

However, the Fisher agreement is the first "big deal" for the company, Czerney said.

"We are very happy about this, and we could have selected [from] several big companies, but from our point of view, Fisher is very serious," Czerney said.

Dyomics is still a relatively unproven commodity in the drug-discovery world because the company lacks any significant assay kits or specific application notes. But Fisher obviously liked what it saw in the company's chemistry talent pool.

"They have a lot of experience in creating dyes of all sorts, and have the capacity to develop new dyes," Foster told CBA News. "They come from the tremendous experience of the German dye business."

The deal could also put a charge into Dyomics' business because its chemists will work alongside Fisher's molecular biologists to develop specific drug-discovery applications for the fluorescent reagents.

"Until now we could only synthesize dyes, and try to sell [them] to researchers at universities and so on," Czerney said. "To bring new dyes into kits or application notes would cost us a lot of money.

"That's why we were looking for reliable and serious partners that could do this," he added. "So now we hope that we can bring our technology, the optical markers and fluorophores, into the kits and application notes of the different companies under the rule of Fisher, such as Dharmacon and Cellomics."

Beefing up Fluorescence

Dyomics' fluorescence dye expertise overlaps with several of Fisher's existing offerings, such as Western blotting, protein and nucleic acid detection, antibody arrays, and quantitative PCR.

"We had a reasonable amount of expertise [in fluorescence], but many of the dyes were purchased and brought in from the exterior. So now we kind of have a captive source."

But in particular, Dyomics' expertise will be crucial to the ongoing cultivation of Fisher's cellular imaging, high-content screening, and functional genomics abilities recently brought on board with the company's acquisition of Cellomics and Dharmacon, Foster said.

"We became associated with Dyomics to give us access to a whole plethora of various types of dyes that will be extremely useful in our high-content screening [capabilities] from Cellomics as well as our applications at Pierce," Foster said.

Fisher has "substantial" expertise in chemiluminescent reagents, Foster said, but not as much in fluorescent reagents.

The Dyomics deal "now provides us a nice foothold in fluorescence, as well," Foster said. "We had a reasonable amount of expertise [in fluorescence], but many of the dyes were purchased and brought in from the exterior. So now we kind of have a captive source.

"What's more, it's putting the dye-development expertise alongside our molecular biologists so they can do them in parallel, as opposed to having an idea of what we want to do and then going to search for the dye," Foster added.

Specifically, Foster noted that Dyomics will provide Fisher the experience "to develop new dyes that have all the characteristics a biologist would like, including the ability to get the dyes into the cells, to reduce toxicity, and to use multiple dyes for a Technicolor approach to watching cellular processes."

From the standpoint of high-content screening, this brings Fisher's Cellomics brand even closer to the high-content screening prowess of companies such as GE Healthcare and Molecular Devices, which offer a wide variety of reagents with their instrumentation platforms. Industry insiders often perceived Cellomics' relative lack of reagent expertise as its weak point, despite the fact that it pioneered the instrumentation side of the HCS field. Becoming a part of Fisher helped address that weakness, and the Dyomics deal only serves to reinforce its position.

"Our interest in Dyomics was to have the capacity to have access to the current dyes that they have, and, perhaps even more importantly, to their development capabilities, so we can match their organic chemistry with our molecular biologists' abilities and come out with ever-increasingly sophisticated probing tools," Foster said. "This will be particularly critical as we substantially expand the repertoire of reagents that will be associated with our Cellomics machines."

— Ben Butkus ([email protected])

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