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Exiqon's qPCR Assays, MicroRNA Arrays Drive Q1 Sales Up 33 Percent


This story was originally posted on May 20.

By Justin Petrone

Exiqon this week reported a 33-percent spike in first quarter revenues, primarily due to strong demand for its quantitative PCR and microRNA array products.

For the three months ended March 31, the Danish miRNA research company saw its revenue increase to DKK 27.6 million ($5.3 million) from DKK 20.7 million in the prior-year period.

"During the past 12 months we have seen our qPCR products becoming the most important growth driver," CEO Lars Kongsbak told BioArray News this week. He said that the firm's menu of PCR assays is now the "biggest product line" that Exiqon offers, surpassing even its arrays.

Exiqon launched its first miRNA array in 2005 (BAN 11/3/2005). The company last updated the chip in December 2010. The latest generation of its Mircury LNA microRNA Arrays contain 2,361 unique capture probes covering all mature human, mouse, rat, and related viral microRNA sequences as annotated in miRBase version 16.0.

During the first quarter of 2011, Exiqon also launched a new labeling kit for its arrays (BAN 2/1/2011). The labeling kit "provides for twice the sensitivity over the previous kit," Kongsbak said.

The firm's momentum, though, seems to be in the market for qPCR assays. In October 2009, the company rolled out its miRcury LNA Universal RT microRNA PCR system and Ready-to-Use qPCR panels for microRNA expression profiling (BAN 5/25/2010).

And, earlier this month, the Vedbæk-based company debuted its custom miRNA Pick & Mix qPCR Panels. Pick & Mix "provides the customer with the freedom to design their own 96- and 384-well qPCR plates as they want," said Kongsbak.

The company expects its array users to move projects from its miRcury arrays to Pick & Mix qPCR arrays for validation.

"If a customer has identified 10 miRNAs of interest by microarray screening and would like to validate the profile on a number of samples by qPCR this can easily be designed and ordered from Exiqon," said Kongsbak.

In a few weeks Exiqon will launch a "very advanced software platform" for qPCR data analysis, he added. Once a Pick & Mix product is ordered from Exiqon, the customer will receive a data file, which is uploaded to the software for data analysis. "The customer will automatically have the Pick & Mix plate layout defined for data [quality control], inter-plate calibration, data analysis, et cetera," he said.

In terms of interoperability between the two product lines, Kongsbak said that Exiqon has "validated more than 1,500 qPCR assays and all of them are compatible with our arrays." The arrays are also validated with synthetic targets, making it possible to move from Exiqon's microarray platform to its qPCR platform. "We have many customers who have successfully moved from arrays to qPCR for subsequent profiling," he said.

Life Sciences and Dx

Exiqon maintains two business units: Exiqon Life Sciences and Exiqon Diagnostics. The bulk of its revenues are derived from sales of its research tools, such as its arrays and qPCR panels, as well as services through its Life Sciences unit.

The firm said this week that first-quarter research product sales, including services, increased 40 percent to DKK 23.8 million from DKK 17 million in the year-ago quarter, due to "continued organic growth." When excluding original equipment manufacturing and reagent sales associated with license agreements, organic growth was 34 percent during the quarter, the firm said, driven largely by sales of its PCR platform.

Exiqon Diagnostics' revenues fell 15 percent to DKK 2.2 million from DKK 2.6 million. The majority of the income came in the form of awarded grants, license income, and contract research work performed for pharmaceutical customers, the company said.

Last month, the company reported positive results for its PCR-based test for early detection of colorectal cancer in blood. The company claims the test can detect miRNA biomarkers associated with the presence of colorectal cancer in less than 0.2 mL of blood.

Exiqon continues to wind up its operations at Oncotech. The firm announced the closure of its Tustin, Calif.-based diagnostics lab in 2009, two years after it spent $45 million to buy the testing services firm, hoping it would act as a diagnostic springboard to the US market (BAN 12/22/2009).

At the time, Exiqon planned to divest the lab, in order to consolidate its diagnostics efforts in Denmark. Last year, the company abandoned the divestment process. According to a statement this week, an out-of-court liquidation conducted by a common law assignment for benefit of creditors has now been initiated.

In other Q1 financial results, R&D costs in the quarter were nearly halved, falling to DKK 4.9 million from DKK 8 million in the prior-year period. SG&A costs meantime were static, dipping 3 percent to DKK 13.5 million in Q1 from DKK 13.8 million in Q1 2010.

The firm significantly reduced its net loss to DKK 4.9 million from DKK 22.9 million in Q1 '10.

Exiqon ended the quarter with DKK 11.5 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioArray News? Contact the editor at jpetrone [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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