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Citing Rise in Publications, Piper Jaffray Projects Solid Growth for Fluidigm CyTOF in 2015

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – In an investor note released this week, investment bank Piper Jaffray projected solid growth in 2015 for Fluidigm's CyTOF mass spectrometry platform.

The projection is based primarily on what Piper Jaffray sees as growing academic acceptance of the platform, based on a significant increase in publications using the instrument. The firm noted as well that it believes placing additional instruments with existing customers represents a significant opportunity for Fluidigm.

According to the Piper Jaffray note, the CyTOF has been used in 54 published papers since the technology became available to researchers in 2007. (During its Q3 2014 earnings call, Fluidigm noted a total of 63 publications citing mass cytometry technology.) Of those 54 papers, 25, or 46 percent, were published in 2014, up from seven published in 2013. Last year also saw a jump in the number of institutes publishing papers using the CyTOF, with a total of 15 different institutes publishing CyTOF-enabled research, compared to six in 2013.

These numbers indicate that "CyTOF facility acceptance is broadening," the analysts wrote, adding that, based on the notion that "facilities are more likely to purchase an expensive instrument after broad acceptance," the "robust publishing cycle in 2014 supports 2015 CyTOF growth assumptions."

The analysts added that existing customers with only a single instrument represented a sales opportunity, noting that they believe that these customers will "add incremental units." The earliest adopting institution currently has seven CyTOF instruments with another on the way, and in the third quarter of 2014, four existing customers added either a second or third machine. With 65 existing customers owning only one instrument, "considerable headroom exists to expand within existing installs," they wrote.

In total, there were 86 CyTOFs installed globally as of the third quarter of 2014, with three more instruments scheduled for delivery in Q4 2014 and three more in Q1 2015.

Originally developed by DVS Sciences, the CyTOF combines capabilities of flow cytometry and atomic mass spectrometry, allowing it to measure large numbers of proteins in single cells with high throughput. Atomic mass spectrometry detects proteins using antibodies linked to stable isotopes of elements, which can then be read with high resolution via time-of-flight mass spectrometry. The platform is able to simultaneously quantify as many as 100 protein biomarkers in individual cells at a rate of roughly 1,000 cells per second.

Fluidigm acquired DVS and the CyTOF technology last year for $207.5 million as part of its ongoing push into single-cell proteomics.

While the Piper Jaffray note suggests optimism regarding CyTOF sales in 2015, in 2014 Fluidigm downgraded its expectations after soft sales early in the year, reducing an initial guidance of $33 million to $35 million in CyTOF sales to between $24 million and $26 million, including $3.8 million in 2014 revenue recognized by DVS prior to the acquisition. On its Q3 2014 earnings call, the company said it had revised this estimate to between $23 million and $25 million.

Fluidigm also plans in 2015 to begin sales of a mass cytometry imaging system using the CyTOF technology. In an August interview with GenomeWeb, Fluidigm CTO Scott Tanner said this new device would help the company draw researchers who have traditionally worked with tools like immunohistochemistry and MALDI imaging.