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Thermo Buys BioCrystal's OptiCell Line; 'Hopes' to Begin Production in September

Thermo Fisher Scientific this week said that it has acquired all of the assets of BioCrystal’s OptiCell product line, including trademarks, production equipment, inventory, and 12 patents related to OptiCell technology.
The first step is to transfer the manufacturing from its facility in Westerville, Ohio, to Thermo Fisher’s space in Rochester, NY, said Steve Silverman,vice president and general manager for labware and specialty plastics at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Nalgene and Nunc Products.
Silverman told CBA News this week that Thermo Fisher has already moved the equipment that was producing the OptiCell product line into its own facility, and is in the process of getting the production line up and running.
“We are hoping to be in production here in Rochester in September,” he said. 
Over the next several months, Thermo plans to continue to improve the quality of the product line and produce a lower-priced product that fits in with the rest of the company’s portfolio, said Silverman.
After that, Thermo Fisher will look at the technology, which uses gas permeable polymer membranes to provide a cell culture growth surface enclosed within a sealed environment, and expand it into other new product formats, he said.
Silverman also said that Thermo Fisher will be working with its customers to get their input about what kinds of formats and what improvements to the product they would like to see.   
The OptiCell line is a good fit with the Nunc line of cell culture consumables, said Silverman. The overall area of cell culture is strategically a very important area for Thermo, because Thermo owns companies that provide the media and sera, such as HyClone, and has product lines that include incubators and laminar flow hoods.
Thermo Fisher has many of the basic components that a customer would need to do cell culture research, from the consumables to the media to the lab equipment, and this purchase is a good fit for the overall direction of the company, said Silverman.
Silverman said that acquiring the OptiCell line will allow Thermo Fisher’s customers to have a cell culture platform backed up by its technical support teams.
Silverman said that Thermo Fisher had very good customer feedback during the OptiCell product launch phase, and believes that it has more resources than BioCrystal at its disposal to develop the technology to its full potential.
BioCrystal had been interested in working with Nalgene Nunc International and had actually been working with them for some time, said Jeff Bergen, BioCrystal president and CEO. For the last year, the OptiCell line was marketed as the Nunc OptiCell System under an exclusive distribution agreement with BioCrystal.
“Nalgene had an interest in OptiCell even before we established the distribution agreement,” said Bergen. “BioCrystal just does not have the operating capital to sustain on its own a product with the potential of OptiCell.”

“Thermo Fisher had very good customer feedback during the OptiCell product launch, and believes that it has the resources at its disposal to develop the technology to its full potential.”

Bergen said that in further discussions with Nalgene Nunc, the company expressed an interest in acquiring this portion of BioCrystal’s business and taking advantage of the unique technology afforded by OptiCell for a variety of applications in cell culture.
It also made sense for BioCrystal, said Bergen. When he became the CEO of BioCrystal in 2002, the company had three distinct technology platforms: one in fluorescent nanocrystal technology, one in cancer immunotherapy, and the cell-culture platform technology that included OptiCell. 
Bergen said that these platforms are divergent in terms of their target markets and the companies with whom BioCrystal would collaborate. “It was important for BioCrystal, as a small company, to try to align itself with commercial partners that could really help it move this technology forward in all three areas,” he said.
BioCrystal sold its fluorescent nanocrystals business unit, BioPixels, to Invitrogen in the fall of 2005. Bergen explained that in terms of the bio-reagent business, Invitrogen had a far better infrastructure to advance that technology.
Likewise, it made sense for BioCrystal to sell OptiCell to Thermo Fisher, said Bergen.
According to Bergen, BioCrystal is going to focus entirely on its cancer immunotherapy platform technology. The company already has some outsourced collaborations with groups that are interested in validating portions of the experimental success it has had with certain segments of its cancer immunotherapy technology. In addition, the company just finished completely redoing its web site, which should be up by the end of this week.
In a statement, Thermo Fisher said that Cindy Neeley, Thermo’s chief scientist and product manager, will provide applications support and help further develop the product. 

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