The headline of this article has been changed from a previous version to clarify Takara Bio Europe's sales strategy.
By Ben Butkus
In an effort to provide better customer service and increase brand awareness, Japan's Takara Bio has begun selling its full line of molecular biology products in Europe directly through its Takara Bio Europe subsidiary, the company said recently.
In doing so, Takara Bio has taken an important step in better integrating its molecular biology products, including specialized PCR enzymes, with its Clontech-branded offerings, which include more specialized products for cell biology and genetic analysis and have already been sold directly by Takara Bio Europe for several years.
In addition, the change is part of a broader company-wide strategy implemented by Takara Bio last year to vastly increase operating income, partly through the accelerated development and marketing of new products for real-time PCR, next-generation sequencing, and induced pluripotent stem cell biology, Takara Bio Europe President Jean-Jacques Farhi told PCR Insider recently.
The move is intended to unify a fractured sales and marketing setup in Europe that Takara inherited in 2005 when it acquired Clontech from Becton Dickinson for $60 million.
The acquisition allowed Takara Bio to immediately begin selling its products in the US through Clontech's Mountain View, Calif.-based facilities. However, in Europe — where Takara Bio was already selling its products through its TBE subsidiary in Paris suburb Saint-Germain-en-Laye — Clontech already had a third-party distributor network in place from its time with BD.
"When we acquired Clontech, we had inherited some existing networks," Farhi said. "In Germany [and] UK it was already direct sales; and the same in Switzerland with the BD subsidiaries. So it was quite natural to continue to go direct [through] Clontech."
"Takara, which was already sold through distributors, couldn't go at the same pace directly," Farhi added. "So now the timing is good. It took a little while, but it wasn't so easy to match those two brands together in the network."
As part of the reorganization, Takara Bio Europe has put in place an expanded, dedicated sales team that will now sell both Takara- and Clontech-branded products directly to customers in the UK, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the company said.
Farhi said that the company believes it is important that its customers are able to buy both brands from a single supplier, particularly because the two product portfolios are complementary.
"The main difference between Clontech and Takara is that Clontech products are for more specialized applications," Farhi said. "Takara [products] are for more generalized applications. This is the main positioning we've had with both brands, and we are keeping it this way."
For instance, on the PCR front, Farhi highlighted Clontech's Advantage high-fidelity PCR kits, which provide error-free amplification with nearly 30-fold higher fidelity than wild-type Taq polymerase-based kits; and its Titanium Taq DNA polymerase for amplifying targets from highly complex templates with minimal background.
Meantime, Takara Bio has over the past 25 years developed a "very wide diversity of enzymes, around 20 for endpoint PCR, and … maybe 10 for qPCR," Farhi said, adding that the company has specialized in developing enzymes that can perform PCR from a wide variety of sample types with minimal nucleic acid preparation.
With the sales and marketing of Takara Bio and Clontech products now essentially fully integrated on a global scale, the company now plans to up its R&D spending to develop a broad range of new products, particularly for untapped markets.
This initiative will take place through Takara Bio's Genetic Engineering Research unit, one of three Takara Bio divisions along with Gene Medicine and AgriBio. However, according to the company's 2011 annual report, it is just one part of a company-wide plan announced in May 2011 to try and achieve record income in 2012 and income of ¥1.3 billion ($15.6 million as of May 2011) with net sales of ¥22.7 billion by 2014 by pumping some ¥500 million per year into R&D across all of its business units.
"In the PCR area we are looking to develop more specialized enzymes, for example, in epigenetics," Farhi said. "We are [developing] some dried-down formulations [of] Clontech … amplification enzymes; and we are also developing some kits for some special applications going in next-gen sequencing."
To that end, the company last March launched the SMARTer Ultra Low RNA kit for Illumina sequencers, a modified version of Clontech's SMART (Switching Mechanism at 5' End of RNA Template) technology to facilitate transcriptome analysis from as little as 100 picograms of input RNA.
And last month, the Takara Bio unit launched two new enzymes in its PrimeSTAR High-Fidelity PCR collection. These enzymes, called PrimeSTAR Max and PrimeSTAR GXL, are both thermostable hot-start polymerases designed for efficient DNA synthesis and each incorporating an elongation factor to further improve PCR fidelity and speed, the company said.
Takara Bio also said that it will soon publish new catalogs for both Takara and Clontech brands, and plans to launch an e-commerce portal by the end of 2012.
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