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Life Tech Sees Growth Opportunity for Ion Torrent in Clinical Sequencing

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Life Technologies chairman and CEO Greg Lucier said this week that the company sees the desktop sequencing market as "the largest growth segment in the clinical research area of molecular diagnostics."

During a conference call to discuss the firm's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings, he said that the company is "rapidly growing" its menu of AmpliSeq targeted sequencing panels in the areas of cancer and inherited disease, "which is increasingly being utilized for clinical research."

Life Tech said previously that it plans this year to submit the Ion Torrent PGM to the US Food and Drug Administration for 510(k) clearance, but Lucier provided no further information about that.

Last month, Life Tech said it was partnering with Boston Children's Hospital to form a new company, Claritas Genomics, which plans to develop genomics-based diagnostic tests for inherited pediatric diseases (CSN 1/9/2012).

Lucier said Claritas will standardize its work on the Ion Torrent technology, including both the Proton and the PGM. "Life is providing capital and technical support to ensure our sequencers are optimized for the workflow that will be developed at Claritas Genomics," he said.

"We're very excited to have established what we believe is an innovative and flexible structure we can duplicate, going forward, as we partner with select institutions to accelerate the adoption of genetic testing in pediatrics, and ultimately, in advancing Ion Torrent technology into molecular diagnostics," he said.

According to Lucier, Life Tech has benefitted from Illumina's recent acquisition of non-invasive prenatal testing firm Verinata, which caused some uneasiness among Verinata's competitors, who also use Illumina sequencing equipment for their tests.

"That acquisition has impacted our sale of instruments to the positive," Lucier noted. "It has opened up all [kinds of] new channels of discussion of opportunity for us."

While Lucier did not mention any specifics, researchers at China's BGI, for example, recently published a paper in Clinical Chemistry in which they tested the Ion Torrent platform for non-invasive prenatal detection of fetal aneuploidy.

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