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Life Technologies Reports 50 Percent Growth for SOLiD, Consumables in 2010

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By Monica Heger

This story was originally published Feb. 3.

Sales of Life Technologies' SOLiD systems and consumables grew 50 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, the company reported last week.

The instrument business as a whole, which contributes 20 percent of the company's total revenue, grew by 8 percent in 2010, driven by sales of the SOLiD systems and the 3500 Genetic Analyzer, a capillary electrophoresis system. The company did not disclose total revenues for the instrument business or the sequencing business.

For the fourth quarter, revenue from CE sequencing instruments and consumables grew 4 percent. Excluding a one-time sale of several CE instruments to a Japanese police station in the year-ago quarter, revenue grew by 10 percent. Next-gen sequencing saw "strong double-digit growth" in the quarter, David Hoffmeister, Life Tech's chief financial officer, said in a conference call to discuss the company's fourth-quarter and full-year results. He did not provide further details.

Life Tech chairman and CEO Greg Lucier said during the call that despite advances in next-generation sequencing, demand for the 3500 has remained strong, and he expects it to remain so for some time to come, particularly for applications in forensics and food safety testing. On the research side, he said the company has been "pleasantly surprised" that the product has "continued to have uptake," and he attributed that to the fact that capillary sequencing is seen as the gold standard.

"This product is a dynamite product and it's very well received. That's why we're seeing continued demand for a product that everyone would have thought would be obsolete by now," he said.

Lucier also added that the company has been pleased with the level of interest in the SOLiD 5500 instrument.

The company did not report revenues for the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine, which it launched in December after acquiring Ion Torrent in October (IS 12/14/2010 and 10/5/2010). It anticipates the low-cost, compact system to contribute "significantly" to growth in 2011, however, and Hoffmeister said that sales of the PGM are "off to a good start," but did not provide further details.

Earlier this month, the company said that it had booked 60 orders for the Ion Torrent PGM since its launch (IS 1/11/2011).

While Illumina recently unveiled its plans for the MiSeq, which will ship in the third quarter and likely compete with the PGM (IS 1/18/2011), Lucier, while not naming names, said that the company is not worried about Ion Torrent competitors.

"The good news is, we have a product that we're selling and shipping, while the other product is simply on a piece of paper," he said.

He said that he expects growth of the PGM to mimic the growth of qPCR, and that eventually it will be "in virtually every lab in the world." He added, however, that early-access customers for the system have mostly been large genome centers because those centers are able to purchase multiple machines and collaborate with the company on sample prep and usability.

The entire genetic systems business, which includes sequencing, contributed $246 million in non-GAAP revenue for the fourth quarter, or 11 percent organic growth. The company did not report GAAP numbers for this business.

For the full year, sales for the genetic systems division increased 11 percent to $946 million.

Overall, the company reported $932 million in fourth-quarter revenues, a 7 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2009; and $3.6 billion in full-year revenues, a 9 percent year-over-year increase.

Fourth-quarter net income increased nearly 45 percent to $71 million from $49 million, while full-year net income more than doubled to $378 million from $145 million in 2009.

As of Dec. 31, Life Tech had $854.8 million in cash and short-term investments.


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