By Monica Heger
PerkinElmer has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Caliper Life Sciences for $600 million, which, among other things, could help strengthen PE's presence in the next-generation sequencing space.
The agreement will provide PerkinElmer with access to Caliper's automation and sample-prep technology. "The capabilities they bring around DNA sequencing and sample prep will fit in nicely with our focus on informatics," PerkinElmer's CEO Robert Friel said in a conference call to discuss the acquisition.
PerkinElmer entered the next-gen sequencing world in January with the launch of its human and mouse exome sequencing and analysis services on the Illumina HiSeq 2000 platform (IS 1/25/2011). In May, it acquired informatics firm Geospiza, which makes software to analyze next-gen sequencing data.
When it launched its sequencing services business, PE said that it would target academic groups looking at disease-specific studies, core labs, and research units of pharmaceutical companies. It also said it planned to become CLIA-certified in 2011 and HIPAA-compliant at a later stage.
The acquisition could enable PE to expand its customer base, according to Caliper's CEO Kevin Hrusovsky, by allowing the companies to combine their complementary technologies. Hrusovsky plans to join PE's senior management team following the close of the acquisition.
"Some of the assets that PerkinElmer has in one-source services and informatics, we think, are some of the key bottlenecks in laboratories," and are areas that could complement Caliper's growth in automation and sample-prep, he said during the call. "We're going to team those together very rapidly, and we think there will be a nice surge of opportunity."
Hrusovsky noted that about 55 percent of Caliper's customers are pharmaceutical and biotech companies while government and academia comprise about 45 percent, and, in the areas of diagnostics and next-gen sequencing, "we have a stronger bias toward pharma and biotech."
Friel added that PE is not looking to compete with manufacturers of sequencing instruments, but rather is interested in "the workflow around [sequencing] and the informatics at the back end." The acquisition of Geospiza has enabled the company to develop backend capabilities, and Caliper will bring expertise around sample-prep and automation, he said.
"Given the rapid change in sequencing technologies, we believe that the best way for [PerkinElmer] to participate in this space is as a provider of sample prep technologies, informatics, and services," PE's vice president of strategic marketing and bio-discovery, Alan Fletcher, said in an e-mail.
He added that the company does plan to grow its sequencing services at its sequencing and analysis center in Branford, Conn. PE currently offers sequencing services on the Illumina platform, and Fletcher said that the company "continually evaluates sequencing platforms and technologies."
In the next-gen sequencing space, Caliper has launched a number of instruments for automation, including the Sciclone NGS Workstation to automate library prep and the LabChip XT for nucleic acid fractionation.
It has also struck up a number of deals to automate sample prep for next-gen sequencing projects, including most recently with Yale University's Center for Genome Analysis and another with Erasmus University Medical Center (see story, same issue).
Additionally, it has a co-marketing agreement with Illumina to market its LabChip XT and LabChip GX platforms (IS 10/26/2010), which Hrusovsky said would be unaffected by the acquisition. "I don't see anything that would do anything but strengthen the possibility of the relationship with Illumina."
Caliper has also signed several partnerships with other sample-prep providers to automate systems for next-gen sequencing, including Roche NimbleGen, EdgeBio, NuGen, and Covaris.
While Hrusovsky and Friel did not elaborate too much on their strategy for expanding in the next-gen sequencing space, Hrusovsky said Caliper has been "carefully tracking" the "evolution from high-throughput sequencers to benchtop sequencers," and how it would integrate its sample-prep workflows with these platforms.
For example, it is currently co-developing sample-prep protocols with EdgeBio for the Ion Torrent PGM, as well as Life Technologies' SOLiD machines (IS 6/28/2011).
Fletcher added in an e-mail that PE plans to develop protocols for the benchtop sequencers.
The benchtop sequencers, Hrusovsky predicted, will be a "bigger penetrator into the diagnostic market."
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