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Qiagen Bolsters Food Testing Business with PCR Assays from Germany's IFP

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Qiagen said today that it has signed an agreement to acquire a portfolio of PCR-based food safety tests from the Institute for Product Quality, or IFP, a Berlin-based provider of food analysis products and services.

The move will allow Qiagen to offer a full range of products, including sample processing and testing, for food testing applications, and is expected to strengthen Qiagen's Applied Testing unit, which counts food testing among its business segments, the company said.

IFP's tests are based on real-time PCR using SYBRGreen, and cover a broad range of molecular targets including genetic, bacterial, viral, and other food contaminants. The institute offers the tests under the moniker PCRFast.

Qiagen said that the tests can be fully automated for use on Qiagen's QIASymphony and Rotor-Gene Q platforms. According to the IFP website, its PCR tests can be used with all commercial thermal cyclers.

Under the terms of the agreement, IFP will continue producing all existing and future tests as an independent entity in Berlin. Qiagen said that it expects to make the first test kits available through its sales channels in the fourth quarter of this year, and will continue to expand the portfolio to a total of 70 test kits by 2012.

Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz said in a statement that with the transaction Qiagen is "laying the foundation for a very strong position in the area of food safety testing and significantly strengthening the area of applied testing overall."

Applied testing currently accounts for 7 percent of Qiagen's net sales (6 percent in full-year 2009); and in the first quarter of 2010, applied testing revenues grew 27 percent over the first quarter of 2009. Currently, Qiagen's applied testing sales are predominantly in the forensics, veterinary medicine, and biodefense markets.

Qiagen said that the food safety testing market is steadily growing with an overall market volume of more than $2 billion. Specific areas of focus within the market include pathogen detection; quality control, such as testing for genetic modifications; allergen detection; and animal species identification, Qiagen said.

In addition, it said that molecular testing, and in particular real-time PCR assays, are gaining more widespread use in the field. Qiagen estimated that PCR-based methods command some 15 to 20 percent of the overall food safety testing market.

Qiagen said that prior to the IFP deal, it had already begun tackling this market by selling sample processing and reagents for homebrewed food safety tests. As in example, it cited a partnership it struck in 2008 with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop molecular tests for pathogens in foodstuffs for the Chinese and international markets.

Now, with the IFP assay kits in house, Qiagen said that it can offer "complete solutions for all major applications in the food safety testing segment, covering entire workflows from the processing of primary samples to the final testing result."

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