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Thermo Fisher Unveils Pair of Compact Thermal Cyclers from Finnzymes Buy

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By Ben Butkus

Thermo Fisher Scientific this week unveiled a pair of thermal cyclers that it obtained as part of its acquisition of Finnish molecular biology company Finnzymes earlier this year.

The first platform, the Piko thermal cycler, had been commercially available from Finnzymes prior to the acquisition, but is for the first time being sold under the Thermo Fisher brand through the company's sales channels, a product manager said this week.

The second instrument, called the Arktik thermal cycler, was under development at Finnzymes when Thermo acquired the company. The Arktik is not yet commercially available, but is expected to be by the fourth quarter of this year, according to the product manager.

Thermo Fisher introduced the rebranded instruments at the Biotechnica 2010 conference this week in Hannover, Germany.

Both the Piko and Arktik are compact, benchtop instruments for performing endpoint PCR, and are intended for "everyday" research applications, Thermo Fisher said.

Hanna Grano-Fabritius, a market and product line manager with Thermo Fisher, told PCR Insider this week that the major difference between the platforms is that the Piko is more "specialized" while the Arktik is more of a "standard" thermal cycler.

For instance, the Piko, which is available in 24- and 96-well formats, is based around a proprietary heating block design and ultra-thin-walled plastic consumables that enable "extremely good, best-in-class" thermal performance through better temperature transfer, Grano-Fabritius said.

"But, the drawback to some customers would be that it is not using standard plastics; it's more of a thin-walled plastic," Grano-Fabritius said. In contrast, the Arktik "is more of a standard cycler using standard PCR consumables," she said.

The Arktik features interchangeable blocks that can accommodate a standard 96-well plate, a 384-well plate, or dual 48-well plates "to do two different reactions at the same time," Grano-Fabritius said.

In addition, some models of the Arktik, sold outside the US and Germany only, will feature a "broad and accurate" temperature gradient option that will allow cross-block differentials of up to 30°C, Thermo Fisher said.

Both instruments also have a relatively small footprint and reduced power consumption, making them portable and ideal for use away from the lab, the company said in a statement. Thermo Fisher has said, for example, that the Piko is about half the size of conventional thermal cyclers, but can complete a PCR protocol in as little as 10 minutes, which rivals or betters many competing thermal cyclers.

Thermo Fisher did not disclose a list price for either instrument.

Thermo Fisher announced its intention to acquire Finnzymes in February for an undisclosed amount, saying that the move was intended to complement and enhance its nascent PCR business and potentially give the company a foothold in the PCR-based molecular diagnostics market. It closed the transaction in March.

Besides Finnzymes' thermal cyclers, Thermo Fisher coveted the company's proprietary Phusion DNA polymerases for amplifying DNA from whole blood and for bacterial profiling; and Phire polymerases to amplify DNA directly from a wide variety of animal and plant tissues.

Finnzymes and Thermo Fisher claim 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.

Finnzymes also brought to Thermo Fisher the line of ultra-thin-walled plasticware that has been incorporated into the Piko thermal cycler.

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