By Ben Butkus
BioMérieux said this week that it has acquired French diagnostics firm Argene for up to €42.5 million ($60.1 million) in a bid to quickly add to the test menu it plans to offer on Biocartis' forthcoming molecular diagnostics platform.
In addition, Argene will provide BioMérieux with a portfolio of molecular tests for diagnosing infectious diseases in transplant and other immunocompromised patients, BioMérieux said.
Headquartered in Verniolle, France, Argene provides a range of molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases, mostly viral, including real-time and end-point PCR kits. Its real-time offerings, which are most interesting to BioMérieux, include tests for cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, enterovirus, and Bordetella.
"In molecular diagnostics, Argene sells PCR kits (reagents) and does not have a platform," a BioMérieux spokesperson told PCR Insider in an email.
Argene's kits "are currently available for use on most commercial, open PCR platforms," the spokesperson added. According to Argene's website, most of its real-time tests are compatible with PCR instruments from Applied Biosystems, Roche, Qiagen, Bio-Rad, Agilent, and Siemens.
In addition, Argene's tests require the use of sample prep kits such as those sold by Qiagen, Roche, BioMérieux, Abbott, and Siemens.
However, the use of such kits may be rendered moot once BioMérieux helps bring to market the automated and fully integrated cartridge-based molecular diagnostics platform currently being developed by Swiss firm Biocartis.
"BioMérieux plans to transfer Argene's test menu to the fully integrated molecular diagnostics platform, based on real-time PCR, that it is currently developing with Biocartis," the spokesperson said.
Acquired from Royal Philips Electronics in February 2010 (PCR Insider, 2/11/10), Biocartis' platform contains features inspired by various consumer electronics innovations, and is being developed for a wide range of DNA and RNA molecular diagnostic testing, including in oncology and infectious diseases.
Since it acquired the Philips system, Biocartis has been striking strategic collaborations with various content providers to co-develop molecular diagnostic assays for use on the platform, which is amenable to a wide range of fluorescence-based real-time PCR chemistries (PCR Insider, 1/13/11).
BioMérieux became one of Biocartis' partners in November, when the companies forged an agreement to co-develop assays for the platform. Under the agreement, BioMérieux gained exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize microbiology assays, as well as certain oncology and theranostic assays, on the platform.
In exchange, BioMérieux took a €9 million ($12.8 million) stake in Biocartis, and agreed to remunerate it with upfront and milestone payments, as well as royalties on future sales.
Biocartis also has pacts in place with Janssen Pharmaceutica and Johnson & Johnson's Ortho Clinical Diagnostics unit in the area of neurological diseases and certain viral infectious diseases; and with Swiss biopharma conglomerate Debiopharm in the area of companion diagnostics for oncology and infectious diseases therapies.
Now, with its acquisition of Argene, BioMérieux will add to its developing test menu assays geared toward diagnosing infectious diseases in transplant patients, an area in which it is "one of the world leaders," according to the BioMérieux spokesperson.
BioMérieux is acquiring all of the shares of Ab-Services, the holding firm that owns Argene, for €37.5 million upfront, and may make up to €5 million in contingent payments.
In 2010, Argene posted €10 million ($14 million) in sales with molecular diagnostics making up about 75 percent of its business, BioMérieux said. It has 70 employees worldwide.
BioMérieux said that it plans to launch the system being developed with Biocartis in mid-2013 and said that it has secured an additional license from Biocartis to allow integration of Argene's products on the platform.
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