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LGC Doubles Genomics Division With Douglas, Biosearch Buys; Makes North America Axis of Operations


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – LGC's recent acquisition of Douglas Scientific, approximately one year after it acquired Biosearch Technologies, have bolstered the UK firm's PCR and molecular diagnostics product portfolios and effectively doubled the size of its genomics division.

In addition, US-based Douglas and Biosearch, have helped establish North America as an axis of operations for LGC's genomics business, Giulio Cerroni, LGC's managing director, told GenomeWeb this week.

"We've acquired [Douglas] on the basis that we think it's a great fit strategically, in terms of the chemistry, the platform, and the geographic synergies," Cerroni said, adding that acquisition also gives LGC more resources to ensure a healthy development pipeline in coming years.

"The final piece is the international expansion piece in North America and Europe, and there's also a strong interest in the Douglas products in China and other high-growth markets," he said.

LGC, which stands for "Laboratory Government Chemists," was founded in 1842 in London, where it initially served as an independent arbiter of chemical and bioanalytical measurements. The firm was privatized in 1996, but did not establish a genomics division until 2006. LGC also has two other divisions besides genomics: a laboratory managed services division and one focused on reference materials and standards.

The company acquired Douglas earlier this month, and acquired Biosearch in April of last year. In 2011, it acquired KBioscience, a maker of genotyping assays using a fluorescence-based competitive allele-specific PCR technique called KASP.

The Douglas buy was the culmination of a longer relationship; LGC became exclusive distributor of Douglas' product lines in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in 2014.

Douglas is most well known for its Array Tape — a thin polymer strip stamped with microwells that comes in a 384- and 768-well formats — but the Alexandria, Minnesota-based company also recently launched a PCR platform called IntelliQube.

The IntelliQube platform uses the 768-well Array Tape, and performs automated liquid handling, thermal cycling, and detection, and can perform standard PCR as well as qPCR.

LGC is well known for PCR chemistries, Cerroni said. The firm's KASP chemistry can be used in 1,536-well microtiter plates with its SNPline platforms. It also manufactures a DNA extraction platform called Oktopure which uses its proprietary magnetic extraction chemistry, sbeadex, and it has offered nucleic acid extraction services in the US since 2013.

Biosearch, meanwhile, makes custom oliogos for qPCR, and has a number of proprietary chemistries. Its leading range of dyes and quenchers, including a popular one called BHQ, are widely used by other manufacturers.

With the Biosearch acquisition, LGC became "a partner to a lot of major molecular diagnostic companies who come to us for GMP oligos for use on their real-time PCR tests," Cerroni said.

LGC has a major footprint in applied markets, particularly in agbio. There have been more than 2,000 scientific studies published to date using KASP end-point genotyping, particularly for crop sciences, but there is also increasing adoption in livestock, aquaculture, and other fields, said Cerroni.

Douglas has a smaller agbio footprint, supported through partnerships with firms like Thermo Fisher's Life Technologies and EnviroLogix, since the high-throughput nature of its solutions tends to serve the needs of industrial genotyping.

And Biosearch brings a molecular diagnostics piece to the equation, as well as multiplexing solutions.

"We recognize that [the Biosearch] chemistries are applicable to research and biopharma, as well as to applied markets such as the agbio market," Cerroni said, adding that the firm is now looking to make the Biosearch portfolio more visible to the agbio and applied markets, both in the US and in Europe.

Douglas' IntelliQube platform also addresses a need for high-throughput solutions in the applied markets. Cerroni said he sees the "marrying of [LGC's] enzyme capability, the probes, oligos, dyes, and quenchers from Biosearch, together with the real-time platform, so that we can provide a workflow solution to those customers."

LGC further intends to use the acquistions and its "a critical mass in engineering capability" to bolster development of new solutions.

The Douglas site in particular will be part of expanding engineering capabilities. "They've recently introduced the IntelliQube platform, so now it's a case of making sure we get good adoption of that platform into the market, but then see what other platforms we can develop," Cerroni said.

LGC has now established North America as its biggest geography, he said. "That was a strategic desire, to establish scale in North America, [and] our largest percentage of revenues now are coming from North America."

LGC is also able to bring the Biosearch products into Europe "at a much more accelerated pace than Biosearch would have been able to do," and it has made investments in the manufacturing facilities in Europe for oligos.

"We're looking forward to bringing those products to the molecular diagnostics customers that know us in North America and that have operations in Europe and would like to do business with us there — a significant part of our growth strategy is international expansion of Biosearch and also of our own products in North America."

Biosearch has two facilities north of San Francisco —in Petaluma and Novato, California — and LGC plans to use these sites, along with Douglas' Minnesota site, as bases of American operations.

The firm has already added a number of people to Biosearch and will be expanding on that this year "to help us support not just North America but also international, as we start to export the products from the US."

LGC is merging its own North American sales team with that of Douglas, and named Darren Cook, executive vice president of business development and strategy at Douglas Scientific, as vice president of sales for LGC's entire genomics division, Cerroni said.

He noted that, because real-time PCR is ubiquitous, the firm will be looking to carefully quantify opportunities in some new areas that it may not have not dealt with before. He could not provide details, but said LGC hired Jane Theaker, associate director and head of the IVD Technology office at Qiagen, as a new vice president of research and development. Theaker has a history of PCR assay development and experience in research and clinical spaces.

"That's not to say that we're going into the clinical space," Cerroni said, "But it is saying that NGS is having a big impact on the whole industry, so one of the things that we want to understand is what opportunities there might be for us in [the clinical] area."

For now, LGC will be focused on bringing Douglas into the family, Cerroni said.

"There's a lot of work to be done to make sure we deliver on the promise of how we put this thing together and make it very visible to people. The innovation piece is very important to us, as is developing a roadmap that really demonstrates to current and prospective customers that we can be a strategic partner to them."