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Bruker Bets On Clinical Proteomics, Pick-Up in X-Ray Sales for a Boost in Remainder of 2004

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Bruker BioSciences is betting on a successful push into clinical proteomics and a recovery of its life sciences X-ray business to boost its revenue growth in 2004, Bruker’s CEO Frank Laukien said this week during the company’s first quarter earnings conference call.

The company’s revenues grew 8 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2004, to $68.2 million, compared with $63.1 million in Q1 of 2003. Income grew to $1 million, compared with a net loss of $1.6 million in Q1 2004. Life science mass specs accounted for 41 percent of BioSciences’ revenues and 72 percent of Bruker Daltonics’ revenues. Bruker’s R&D expenses increased to $10.4 million in Q1, up from $8.8 million during the year-ago period. As of March 31, Bruker had $76.7 million in cash and short-term investments.

“Based upon initial positive market reaction to our ClinProt line and our performance advantages, we believe that ClinProt will be a significant growth contributor for us in 2004,” Laukien said. He listed the clinical proteomics business as one of “three new developments that we believe will begin to contribute to the growth of Bruker BioSciences in the midterm.” The other two developments he focused on were Bruker’s nuclear, biological, and chemical detection system product lines, and opportunities in applying X-ray systems to nanotechnology research.

“Since launching our ClinProt solution last year, we have seen strong acceptance of this product line and believe we are making significant gains in the clinical proteomics market,” Laukien said. As he has in the past, Laukien attributed the gain to higher resolution and identification capabilities of Bruker’s mass specs as compared with competitors.

This week, however, Laukien also emphasized larger validation studies, and the translation of biomarker panels into diagnostics, as areas where he hoped ClinProt could dominate this year. In addition, he expressed hope that the system could help Bruker — known almost exclusively as a hardware vendor — bring in revenues from its magnetic bead and AnchorChip consumables as well.

ClinProt is already opening up new academic markets for Bruker, Laukien said during the question and answer session of the call. “We used to sell to the universities primarily, but with our newer offerings, we get much more access to medical school and clinically driven research budgets, which are as large or actually are probably larger than university research budgets,” he said. He added that the accessible academic landscape for Bruker “is really changing quite dramatically.”

While academic spending was “very strong” for Bruker in 2003, pharma and biotech clearly were not. With renewed pharma dollars available this year (see PM 4-30-04), Laukien hopes that ClinProt can also help Bruker to draw in more of these dollars. “We as a company are repositioned a little bit — our product offerings in pharma and biotech were almost exclusively in drug discovery [previously], where some of our newer products now also go into toxicity screening, efficacy markers, things that are typically done in drug development,” he said. “So that’s a pharma budget we can now address.”

Bruker is also hoping that life science X-ray systems on the AXS side of the business — which the company has been promoting for structural proteomics applications and which has been struggling for the last four quarters (see PM 3-5-04) — will post a strong recovery in the remainder of this year and will begin to add more to the company’s revenue stream. “We have seen stronger bookings for some time, but we expect to see recovery in the X-ray business in revenues in the second quarter and subsequent quarters of 2004,” Laukien said. He attributed the recovery to an improvement in budgets and general spending trends, as well as to recent product introductions.

In terms of geographies, Laukien noted that Bruker was experiencing similar troubles in Japan with governmental spending changes that ABI has been reporting for the last two quarters (see PM 4-30-04). He said that the US and Asia were healthy, while Europe was “fine, but nothing spectacular.”

— KAM

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