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Gen-Probe CFO Maps Out Short-term Opportunities at Jefferies Conference

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Amid speculation that Gen-Probe's reported search for a buyer may have gotten a tepid response, CFO Herm Rosenman focused his presentation Tuesday at the Jefferies Global Healthcare Conference on growth opportunities for the firm's new Panther platform and testing markets.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the bidding process for the San Diego-based molecular diagnostics firm was not going as well as expected, driving down its stock price. Rosenman made no reference to that during his presentation Tuesday afternoon, and instead spoke about Gen-Probe's strategy moving ahead to grow its business. In particular, he directed attention to the company's new Panther system, which was launched in Europe late last year.

The system will extend the company's leadership position in automation into smaller and medium-sized laboratories, although Rosenman added that on an extended shift the platform can do 500 samples, "so it's not necessarily just … a low-volume instrument."
The planned test menu for the instrument includes assays for human papillomavirus, hepatitis C virus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. The company also intends to reformulate its PCA3 prostate cancer test for the Panther and to develop a test for trichomonas for the platform.

The system is a random-access instrument, "the only one of its kind," Rosenman said, and eliminates the need for batching. It combines the capabilities of an immunoassay along with molecular diagnostics "for the first time," he added.

Gen-Probe filed for clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for Panther last month and hopes to get approval by the end of the year, he said.

In addition to Panther, Rosenman also identified the sexually transmitted disease testing market, the HPV market, and blood-screening as growth opportunities for Gen-Probe.

In STD testing, the US represents a $325 million market with a 5 percent annual growth rate, while the non-US geography is about a $130 million market with about a 10 percent annual growth rate.

"We've made quite an investment in Europe and we're making a big push there," Rosenman said.

HPV is a $350 million to $375 million global market and Gen-Probe submitted a pre-market approval application with the FDA in November for its Aptima HPV assay.

Rosenman called the trichomonas testing market the "wild card" that could have a significant impact on revenues. Worldwide, it represents at least a $50 million market that has been underserved, and in April, Gen-Probe received FDA clearance for the Aptima Trichomonas vaginalis assay for its automated Tigris platform.

A study on Gen-Probe's test conducted with 800 women found the incidence rate for trichomonas was higher than for chlamydia and gonorrhea combined, with an especially high incident rate in women 40 years of age and older. A follow-up study of 4,000 women will soon be published, and if the findings are similar to the 800-women study, the trichomonas test "will be a big product for us and the market will probably expand beyond $50 million," Rosenman said.

Lastly, he said there will be growth opportunities for blood screening, particularly outside the US where the Panther platform will be introduced for blood-screening uses in the middle of 2012. Blood screening currently represents about 35 percent of Gen-Probe's total revenues and the company is the market leader with about 53 percent of the market, Rosenman said.

Its partner on blood-screening products is Novartis and a renegotiated deal with that firm that became effective at the start of 2009 will give Gen-Probe a greater percentage of revenues generated from the products until 2015, at which point they will become flat until the end of the collaboration in 2025, he said.

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