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Thermo Fisher Strengthens PCR Portfolio with $260M Fermentas Acquisition

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Thermo Fisher continued to expand its PCR and sample preparation product portfolio with the announcement today of its planned $260 million acquisition of international molecular biology tool provider Fermentas.

Following today's announcement, Thomas Weisel Partners issued a research note assigning an "overweight" rating to Thermo Fisher's stock and calling the Fermentas acquisition a "synergistic tuck-in deal" that is a "positive for Thermo as it bolsters Thermo's capabilities in the high-growth PCR market."

The Thomas Weisel report also noted that the deal "strengthens Thermo's existing PCR portfolio in reverse transcription PCR and quantitative real-time PCR;" and that it is in line with management's comments from a May 26th analyst event that Thermo's primary use of cash will continue to be strategic acquisitions.

Fermentas, with headquarters in Burlington, Ontario, and principal operations in Vilnius, Lithuania, provides a broad range of molecular and cellular biology research tools. These include reagents for nucleic acid and protein purification, restriction and modifying enzymes, molecular weight markers, and other life science research and diagnostic tools.

Thermo Fisher also underscored Fermentas' variety of products for PCR, RT-PCR, and qRT-PCR, noting that they will strengthen the company's existing PCR portfolio.

The announcement comes on the heels of Thermo Fisher's recent acquisition of Finnish PCR products firm Finnzymes, which the company first announced in February and closed in March (PCR Insider, 2/4/10 and 3/10/10). Thermo has not disclosed the financial details of that transaction.

With that acquisition, Thermo Fisher picked up Finnzymes' Phusion DNA polymerases for amplifying DNA from whole blood and for bacterial profiling; and Phire polymerases for amplifying DNA directly from a wide variety of animal and plant tissues.

Finnzymes claims that these proprietary engineered polymerases outperform Taq-based polymerases in terms of speed and fidelity and are ideal for both routine and high-throughput PCR applications.

The Finnzymes acquisition also landed Thermo Fisher the Piko brand of thermal cyclers, which are available in 24- and 96-well formats, about half the size of conventional thermal cyclers, and can complete a PCR protocol in as little as 10 minutes, according to the company.

Also, in October, Thermo Fisher launched its Solaris qPCR gene expression assays, which use minor groove binder and "superbase" technologies for repeatable, sensitive, and gene-specific quantification, according to the company.

"The addition of Fermentas, our recent acquisition of Finnzymes, and the launch of our new Solaris qPCR assays create a unique combination of products and expertise that enables us to strengthen our depth of capabilities in the high-growth PCR market, including research and PCR-based testing," Thermo Fisher President and CEO Marc Casper said in a statement.

Fermentas has approximately 500 employees and had full-year revenues of approximately C$57 million ($54 million) in 2009. Besides its Canadian and Lithuanian offices, Fermentas has facilities in Germany, the US, and China. The company will be integrated into Thermo Fisher's analytical technologies segment.

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