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Analyst: Knocking Waters' Acquity off its Pedestal? Don't Count on it Yet, Agilent

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Although Agilent Technologies' new liquid chromatograph received the enthusiastic approval of at least one beta tester, it could face a "long ramp" before it challenges Waters' Acquity UPLC platform, a New York investment analyst said in a note this week.

In the note, Isaac Ro of Leerink Swann said that he recently spoke with a beta tester of Agilent's 1290 Infinity Liquid Chromatography System, launched in April as a direct competitor to Waters Acquity instrument introduced in 2004 [see PM 04/30/09].

The researcher, whom Ro described as a "sizable customer," uses both the Acquity and Agilent's current HPLC platforms. The customer said that that he was "favorably impressed" by Agilent's system and spoke positively about the company's service and competitive pricing. He added that he plans to buy "multiple" 1290 systems when Agilent begins shipping them on July 1.

In spite of that, Ro said that Agilent's 1290 system "will require a long ramp before gaining significant market share."

Ro noted that Waters pioneered the UHPLC category with the launch of the Acquity "and has a considerable leadership position, a large installed base, and a wide menu of proprietary columns." In addition, commercial lab processes for QA/QC using UHPLC technology are often regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration "and thus carry high switching costs."

According to Ro, Waters' HPLC business generates about 70 percent of the company's sales. Meanwhile, its Acquity business drives "well over 50 percent" of Waters' HPLC revenues, "implying [about 40 percent] of the total business" is Acquity-based.