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Life Tech to Follow Navigenics Buy With More Acquisitions as it Builds MDx Portfolio

LOS ANGELES (GenomeWeb News) – Life Technologies plans to follow its purchase of Navigenics with several "small, tuck-in acquisitions" over the next few months as part of a broad strategy to build its molecular diagnostics business, Ronnie Andrews, president of medical sciences at the company, said today.

Andrews said that the Navigenics acquisition, announced yesterday, provides Life Tech with a CLIA lab that has been licensed in all 50 states as well as a curated physician portal that Life Tech will extend to help doctors interpret results of various genomic tests.

Speaking at a press conference at the American Association of Clinical Chemistry's annual meeting, Andrews said that the purchase is the first of several it is planning over the next two to three months that will "allow us to immediately address unmet medical needs" in various areas.

In the short term, Life Tech will use the Navigenics CLIA lab to run proprietary laboratory-developed tests. While the company is not disclosing the specifics of these tests, Andrews said they will be based on qPCR and will initially focus on lung, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

Navigenics acquired the 10,000-square-foot Sacramento, Calif.-based CLIA facility from Affymetrix in 2009.

Andrews noted that Navigenics allowed Life Tech to gain a CLIA lab immediately at "a very attractive price." While the company could have built its own lab, he estimated that it would have taken around 18 months for certification and licensing. Likewise, he noted that it would likely take several years and millions of dollars to develop a physician portal similar to the Navigenics offering.

While the Navigenics CLIA lab is key to Life Tech's strategy of bringing in "early revenue" for its own line of laboratory-developed tests, Andrews noted that LDTs are a "means to an end." The company's longer-term goal is to clear its tests through the US Food and Drug Administration and to ultimately "be a kit company," he said.

Oncology is the first area where Life Tech plans to develop LDTs, but it has identified four other areas of focus for the molecular diagnostics business: inherited disease, infectious disease, transplant diagnostics, and neurology.

Andrews said that Life Tech plans to move its qPCR-based LDTs to the Ion Torrent PGM outside the US, but will keep them on the qPCR platform in the US, where the company has FDA approval for its 7500 Fast Dx thermocycler.

The company views qPCR as the better short-term option for molecular diagnostics than sequencing, Andrews said, adding that more than 7,000 hospitals and clinics are already using Life Tech qPCR instruments to report results for patients.

While the Ion Torrent technology "will be disruptive," Andrews estimated that next-gen sequencing "won't be ready for the standard of care for three to five years" because the results are still too difficult for clinicians to interpret and most doctors don't know what to do with the results.

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