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At JP Morgan, Vendors Tout Strong Mass Spec Releases as Antidotes to Academic/Government Gloom


By Adam Bonislawski

Executives from Agilent, Bruker, Danaher, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Waters presented this week at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, recapping their firms’ 2011 performances and offering a look forward to 2012.

The academic and government spending concerns that emerged in the second half of last year remained an area of focus. Some vendors, though, professed optimism on that front, with Agilent in particular citing it as an area of opportunity.

The start of the fiscal year has provided “a lot more clarity” with regard to academic and government spending, said Nick Roelofs, president of Agilent's life sciences business. While such funding has recently “been battered in first-world countries,” the company, Roelofs said, views it as a stable space where “we see lots of opportunity in taking [market] share.”

“We’re pretty optimistic about that market,” he said. “We see it as an opportunity and are putting resources in to continue to invest in the channel.” He added that in the last three years, revenues from academic and government spending have grown from three percent to eight percent of Agilent’s life sciences business.

Roelofs mentioned Agilent’s mass spec business, noting that it “has been in the high end in terms of detection in mass spectrometry,” but he focused less on the company’s specific instrumentation offerings than on its efforts to put together integrated systems incorporating those instruments.

Through efforts like its collaboration with SISCAPA inventor Leigh Anderson and a strategic partnership announced this week with protein diagnostics firm Integrated Diagnostics, Agilent has demonstrated a sustained interest in building comprehensive workflows for mass spec-based clinical proteomics (See story, this issue).

Roelofs alluded to this ambition, noting that sample prep offerings are “where we continue to have a real opportunity from a product point of view – the opportunity to complete customer workflows and to put technologies in front of our core platforms – and that’s what you’ll see us continue to do.”

Such a strategy, he said, “really gives us an opportunity to move the market by creating greenfields that are adjacent to our core instrumentation platforms.”

He noted, in particular, the company’s acquisition in December of Madison, Wis.-based fluidics firm Biosystem Development, which makes the AssayMap microchromatography cartridge that Agilent has been working to integrate into proteomics workflows.

“Currently, the predominant use [for AssayMap] is in the area of proteins,” Roelofs said. “It really accelerates the workflow in front of mass spectrometry in the protein, antibody, and peptide phases.”

Among the potential uses for the AssayMap technology is in trypsin digestion prior to mass spec analysis. It could potentially lower the time required for digestion from hours to minutes – an advance that will be key to achieving the high throughput needed to validate and implement clinical proteomic assays.

Like Roelofs, Waters CEO Douglas Berthiaume addressed academic and government spending concerns. However, rather than identify it as an opportunity, he downplayed the firm’s exposure to these markets, noting that they account for less than 15 percent of its revenues.

He highlighted, however, Waters’ new Synapt G2-S mass spectrometer, a high-end, high-resolution instrument he had previously suggested could drive sales in the academic market (PM 10/28/2011). Waters introduced the instrument at the American Society of Mass Spectrometry annual meeting in June and began shipping it late in the third quarter of 2011.

“We saw very strong response to it … and that will benefit us for the full year 2012,” Berthiaume said.

Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper likewise singled out an ASMS mass spec release, calling the firm’s new Q-Exactive its “flagship launch” for 2011. The instrument, which combines a quadrupole front end with an Orbitrap analyzer, is aimed at the $250 million Q-TOF market, in which Thermo Fisher had not previously competed. Early research from Bruno Domon, director of the Luxembourg Clinical Proteomics Center, suggests it might also be useful as an alternative to triple quadrupoles for protein and peptide quantitation (PM 9/16/2011).

Casper said the instrument has seen “fantastic uptake” since it began shipping in the second half of 2011.

Casper also provided an update on the company’s integration of chromatography firm Dionex, which it formally acquired in May. In the first seven months since the acquisition, he said, the company achieved cost synergies of $10 million – on pace to beat its 12-month goal of $15 million, and $8 million in revenue synergies – on pace to beat the three-year goal of $20 million.

Danaher, meanwhile, reflected on the strong performance of its AB Sciex division, which saw double-digit growth in 2011, driven in significant part by strong sales of its TripleTOF 5600 mass spectrometer, CEO Larry Culp said.

“Clearly our positions in pharma and proteomics particularly were buoyed by what we did with the 5600,” he said, calling AB Sciex “one of the key growth engines” for Danaher’s life sciences business in 2012.

Bruker also presented at the conference but touched only briefly on its mass spec offerings, with Collin D’Silva, president of its Chemical Analysis division, noting that the company was close to introducing a new nano-UHPLC system for LC-MS/MS applications. Bruker bought into the nano-LC market last year with its acquisition of separations firm Michrom Biosciences, a purchase that CEO Frank Laukien said at the time was intended to enhance the company’s proteomics offerings (PM 3/18/2011).

Bruker officials also noted that the company remains in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration about the proper regulatory pathway for its MALDI Biotyper, which is currently available for research use only in the US.

The company plans to file for 510(k) clearance, which it hopes to receive by the end of the year.

Ahead of its presentation at the conference, Bruker released preliminary Q4 and full year 2011 results in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company reported estimated Q4 revenue of $465 million, which represents 11 percent growth over the fourth quarter of 2010, and estimated full-year revenue of $1.64 billion, a 25 percent jump from 2010.

The results fall slightly short of Wall Street consensus estimates of $472 million for the quarter and $1.648 billion for the full year, but are in line with the company’s guidance of 2011 revenue of between $1.62 billion and $1.64 billion.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in ProteoMonitor? Contact the editor at abonislawski [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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