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Proteomics Tools and Instruments Are Key Business Drivers, Companies Tell Analysts

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Mass specs are doing nicely, the proteomics business is growing, and all is well. Or at least that was the general evaluation that proteomic tool vendors made about their businesses to analysts and investors gathered this week for the UBS’ annual Global Life Sciences Conference.
 
Most companies provided few new details about their businesses not already disclosed at other analyst conferences held during the past month, but collectively they provided a glimpse at how life science and biotech customers view proteomics technologies.
 
Bruker Biosciences
 
Proteomics continues to be a key component of Bruker’s business, according to Frank Laukien, chairman, CEO, and president of Bruker.
 
“One of our strengths clearly has been proteomics,” he said. “It has been a key driver to the growth of Bruker Daltonics,’’ the division that houses much of the instruments and services for proteomics applications.
 
During his presentation, Laukien cited the strength of Bruker’s mass spectrometry business, saying the company’s high-capacity ion trap mass spec was performing well in both direct sales to customers as well as through its multi-year partnership with Agilent. Bruker is the OEM supplier of ion trap MS to Agilent, Laukien said.
 
The company’s fastest-growing mass spec platform is the electrospray and electrospray Q-TOF system, he said. Laukien also said that peptides and protein molecular diagnostics have significant growth potential, though he did not provide specific figures.
 
Overall, Bruker will be working to imprint itself in the life sciences market by investing more on marketing efforts throughout its three divisions — Bruker Daltonics, Bruker AXS, and Bruker Optics.
 
“We’ve always done a good job in design and scientific and technical specs … but I think we have an opportunity to get that story out,” to the market more effectively, CFO Bill Knight said during a break-out session following Laukien’s presentation.
 
Waters
 
While competitors furiously sped along new mass spectrometry systems to market in recent years, Waters sat on he sidelines and watched its rivals draw customers and potential customers away partly because a lawsuit filed by ABI forced Waters to pull its Q-TOF from the market [See PM 04/01/02, 12/02/02 and 03/10/04]. But that trend will stop this year, said Waters’ CFO John Ornell.
 
“We haven’t had the competitive offerings” during the past few years in the mass spec market, he said, resulting in a loss of market share to competitors. But new products launched this year have company officials optimistic, and “we think we’ll exit the year with double-digit growth in MS,” Ornell said.
 
In June, Waters launched its Synapt High Definition Mass Spectrometry featuring the company’s Triwave technology. Ornell cited ABI and Thermo as the top mass spec competitors.
 
In the liquid chromatography market, Waters has about a 20-percent market share, Ornell said, citing Agilent as its main competitor.
 
Ornell also brushed aside rumors that Waters might be an acquisition target by saying any potential buyers may find the bid price for the company prohibitively steep.
 
Applied Biosystems
 
Earlier this month, Tony White, CEO of ABI parent company Applera, said that he expects demand for its mass spectrometry products and increased spending by drug companies to drive strong growth in its proteomics business [See PM 09/14/06].
 
This week, Mark Stevenson, president of ABI’s Molecular and Cellular Biology division, reiterated that point, saying ABI expects its mass spec business to grow at least at market rate.
 
Talking about its overseas market, company officials said that India is a particularly strong market for proteomics. In China, while government funding has been robust in general for scientific research, most of the funding has gone for infrastructure costs, such as the purchase of equipment. Follow-up funding for reagents and consumables has been lacking, however, but there are signs that that may be changing, White said this week.
 
Meanwhile, in Japan, cuts in government funding have caused academia to withdrawal spending plans, a move that has impacted companies such as ABI. But that may also be changing.
 
“There is some stabilization in the Japanese market,” Stevenson said.
 
PerkinElmer
 
In July, PerkinElmer entered into collaborations with John Hopkins University and the University of Birmingham, UK, to develop biomarker tools and technologies. Earlier in the year the company announced a collaboration with researchers at George Mason University to develop a new immuno-mass spectrometry-based platform for biomarker discovery for ovarian, breast, and lung cancers.
 

“One of our strengths clearly has been proteomics. It has been a key driver to the growth of Bruker Daltonics.’’

But even while the company actively seeks out opportunities in biomarker discoveries for the neonatal, prenatal, and maternal diagnostic markets, it takes a much more passive approach to cancer biomarkers, according to Gregory Summe, chairman, president and CEO. This suggests that PerkinElmer may not be increasing its presence in that sector in the near future.
 
In late August the company launched the Clarus 600 series gas chromatograph and gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer. Next month, PerkinElmer will begin shipping the instruments, Summe said.
 
The company expects to see organic revenues grow to $1.8 billion in fiscal 2008 from $1.5 billion in fiscal 2005. For fiscal 2006, the company maintains an earlier projection of generating between $1.54 million and $1.56 million in revenue.
 
Thermo Electron
 
Thermo senior vice president Marc Casper reiterated that the proposed merger between it and Fisher Scientific remains on track to be completed during the fourth quarter.
 
He also said that regulators in Europe will provide the company feedback on the merger on Oct. 24.
 
Otherwise, Casper reiterated earlier projections by Thermo and Fisher that the deal will result in revenues of $9.2 billion to $9.3 billion in 2007 and $200 million in “merger synergies,” including $50 million in revenue synergies and $150 million in cost savings.
 
— Kirell Lakhman and Ed Winnick contributed to this report.

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