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Caliper Eyeing MDx, Sequencing Sample Prep Opportunities

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – Caliper Life Sciences is working on developing its technologies for future uses in molecular diagnostics and front-end sample preparation for next-generation sequencing systems.

Those opportunities are two of three major initiatives in the firm's pipeline, President and CEO Kevin Hrusovsky said Thursday at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference held here. The company also is working on a new, integrated molecular biology workstation.
But key future revenue drivers could come in the form of the sequencing sample prep and MDx instruments.

Hrusovsky said that the next-gen sequencing sample prep instrument, called LabChip NextGen, will take a couple of years to develop at an estimated cost of around $3 million. He said that it would eliminate the labor-intensive bottleneck at the front end of next-generation sequencing systems and could potentially bring in annual revenue of $10 million to $20 million.

Even though such a sample prep instrument would not be necessary for single-molecule sequencing or other third-generation sequencing technologies, Hrusovsky is confident that the growing number of instruments placed by firms such as Illumina and Life Technologies will create a "very robust" market for the next 20 years for the instrument he envisions Caliper will make. He added that that prediction is based on discussions he has had with genome centers, including the Broad Institute.

Hrusovsky said it is possible the firm would sell such a sample prep instrument system to genome centers on its own, though a partnership with vendors that already serve such customers would be beneficial.

He also said that Caliper sees a major revenue opportunity in creating its own instrument for the point-of-care molecular diagnostics market. He couldn't provide many details as that project is in the earlier planning stages compared to the sample prep instrument.

However, Hrusovsky believes that a small, wireless instrument utilizing its chips and microfluidics technology could be used for a variety of clinical diagnostic applications. He said it's too early to comment on content for the diagnostics system, but noted that it would likely target proteins rather than DNA – such as monitoring proteins in response to drug therapy – or even monitoring chemistries, such as calcium.

Hrusovsky said that the firm could potentially partner with consumer firms, including ones that aren't currently in the healthcare business, to "revolutionize homecare."

He said the diagnostics opportunity is approximately four to five years away and was made possible by the firm's switch to plastic chips from the glass substrates it has been using in its instrument platforms.

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