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Meridian Bioscience's 8 Percent Q1 Revenue Growth Driven by Growing Illumigene Franchise

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Meridian Bioscience this week reported that its fiscal first-quarter revenues increased 8 percent due in part to strong sales of its Illumigene isothermal amplification-based molecular diagnostic tests.

In addition, the company said that it would continue in the near term to focus on building out its Illumigene franchise, and that it expects to launch three to four new tests based on the technology each year for the foreseeable future.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, 2011, sales rose to $40.3 million compared to $37.3 million in the same quarter last year. The company's Q1 revenues fell short of consensus analyst estimates of $43.3 million.

The bulk of Meridian's sales came from its US Diagnostics segment, which logged receipts totaling $25.2 million. Meantime, European Diagnostics had sales of $5.5 million and Life Science had sales of $9.6 million.

In a statement, CEO John Kraeutler noted that the company's Illumigene molecular amplification platform provided the greatest sales contribution to the quarter. During the last 10 weeks, Meridian has placed its Illumigene technology platform with about 100 new customers, bringing the total number of worldwide placements to 750, Krauetler said.

The company's Illumigene Clostridium difficile testing sales increased 27 percent worldwide, while foodborne disease testing rose by 24 percent and Helicobacter pylori testing increased by 2 percent.

"Our near-term focus continues to be on maximizing overall Illumigene placements while adding Illumigene Group B Strep on existing systems," Kraeutler said. "Our Illumigene Mycoplasma test is now in clinical trials and it will be followed by Illumigene Group A Strep in the near future. We continue to expect to launch three to four new Illumigene tests per year for the foreseeable future."

The Illumigene testing platform is based on Eiken Chemical's loop-mediated isothermal amplification technology, to which Meridian has a license.

Meantime, Meridian's Life Science unit grew 10 percent, led by 13 percent growth in its Bioline unit. This growth was driven by the Bioline SensiFAST and MyTaq PCR chemistries, Meridian said.

Kraeutler also noted in a statement that Meridian's European Diagnostics business "continues to be a drag on performance and it is expected that the management and organizational changes we made last year will take several more quarters to make a measureable difference."

Meridian's R&D costs in the quarter slid 2 percent to $2.3 million, and SG&A costs increased a fraction of 1 percent to $12.2 million. The company's net earnings increased to $6.6 million, or $.16 per share, up from $6.0 million, or $.15 per share, a year ago.

Meridian finished the quarter with $26.2 million in cash and short-term investments.

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