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Life Tech Sees Q1 Growth in All Segments, Cites Endpoint, qPCR Products as Contributors

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Life Technologies this week reported 1 percent organic growth in the first quarter for its Research Consumables division, driven in part by endpoint PCR products and molecular and cell biology consumables; and 4 percent organic growth for its Genetic Analysis division, despite the expected continuing decline of qPCR royalties.

In addition, Life Tech reported 3 percent organic growth in Q1 for its Applied Sciences unit, driven by increased sales in bioproduction, forensics, animal health, and food safety.

Life Tech also said that it is seeking to increase its investment in the forensic analysis space; and disclosed that it acquired French firm LSI during Q1 for its real-time PCR-based animal testing capabilities.

For the three months ended March 31, Life Tech reported total revenues of $939 million, a 5 percent increase over the $896.8 million it logged in Q1 2011, or a 2 percent increase excluding foreign currency effects.

This was the first quarter that Life Tech reported its revenue under the new division umbrellas of Research Consumables, Genetic Analysis, and Applied Sciences. Previously, the company reported under the business units of Molecular Biology Systems, Genetic Systems, and Cell Systems.

Sales in Life Tech's largest unit by revenues, Research Consumables — which contains all of the company's molecular and cell biology reagents as well as its endpoint PCR benchtop instruments and consumables — grew 4 percent to $420 million, or 1 percent excluding foreign currency impacts. Life Tech said this growth was a result of increased sales of cell culture workflow products, endpoint PCR products, and molecular and cell biology consumables.

Meantime, Life Tech's second-largest division by revenues, Genetic Analysis, logged $356 million in Q1 revenues, a 7 percent increase over the same period last year, or 4 percent excluding foreign currency effects. The company said that this growth was driven by sales of Ion Torrent and CE sequencing products, but was partially offset by lower qPCR royalties and lower sales of SOLiD sequencing products, both of which were expected.

Besides sequencing products and CE research instruments, Genetic Analysis systems also houses the company's qPCR research instruments and all consumables, which would include its 7500 Fast and 7500 Real-Time, ViiA 7, and QuantStudio 12K Flex product lines.

Life Tech does not break out sales for individual product lines. However, during a conference call discussing the company's Q1 financial results, CEO Greg Lucier noted that the company expanded its PCR and qPCR businesses in the first quarter. "We began taking orders for our QuantStudio digital PCR product and immediately saw higher customer demand than expected," Lucier said, although he did not quantify this demand. Life Tech launched QuantStudio in October (PCR Insider, 10/13/2011).

"QuantStudio is a versatile instrument used for high-throughput, real-time, and digital PCR," he added. "It is ideal for customers who require speed, flexibility, and scalability as they conduct high-quality qPCR analysis, [or] run high volumes of samples for pharmacogenetic studies or [agricultural biology] applications like crop testing."

In addition, Lucier noted during the call that the company expanded its TaqMan Mutation Detection Assays in the first quarter by introducing new assays "to detect an additional 241 of the most common mutations in 21 cancer genes and to provide researchers with tools to accurately and quickly interrogate their samples for a broader range of key cancer mutations. This technology serves as an ideal complement to accurately confirm results of next-generation sequencing experiments." (PCR Insider, 4/5/2012).

Lastly, Applied Sciences revenue was $162 million in Q1, an increase of 4 percent year-over-year, or 3 percent excluding foreign currency impact. This growth was driven by increased sales in bioproduction, forensics, animal health, and food safety products.

Life Tech lumps all of its CE and qPCR instruments that are used for applied markets into this category, and the company added to that portfolio with the acquisition in of France's LSI in Q1.

Lucier noted during the conference call that "LSI is a leader in veterinary real-time PCR animal testing, and combined now with Life, we offer a full suite of solutions for both ELISA- and PCR-based animal health tests."

Lucier also noted the company's previously disclosed acquisition in January of Matrix MicroScience, a UK-based manufacturer of large-volume, automated sample prep systems and consumables for food safety testing (PCR Insider, 1/26/2012). Lucier said during the call that the addition of these products allows Life to provide its customers with "the fastest and most cost-effective workflow" for food safety testing.

Life Tech said that neither the LSI nor the Matrix acquisitions would have a material impact on its financial results this year.

In general, Lucier said that Applied Sciences made "solid progress" in Q1 as the company worked to expand its portfolio in the various markets that fall under this business unit.

In particular, in response to an analyst's question about the forensics business, Lucier noted that it had "a very good quarter" in Q1, particularly in overseas markets.

"We had a couple of big orders in our key countries around the world," he said. "We have continued to launch new products in terms of particular profiling technologies for key countries that we think will unlock future growth."

Further, Lucier said that Life Tech is "looking at new instrumentation in that market that should help us in the ensuing quarters around a broader definition of not just using DNA, but human identification, and we're excited about that platform."

Lucier did not provide additional information on this new platform, and a spokesperson for Life Tech told PCR Insider in an e-mail that the company had no further information to share other than that the company "is making investments in this area."

Life Tech's current major forensics products include the AutoMate Express Forensic DNA Extraction System, AmpFℓSTR Identifiler PCR amplification kits, and 3500 and 3500xL genetic analyzers.

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