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Roche's Sequencing Business Grows 12 Percent YTD as Applied Science Sales Shrink in Q3

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By Julia Karow

This article has been updated from a version posted Oct. 14 to include additional details regarding the Applied Science group's Q3 performance.

Roche's sequencing sales grew 12 percent during the first nine months of 2010 compared to the prior-year period, as initial uptake of the 454 GS Junior sequencer was "very encouraging," the company reported this week.

Roche did not provide absolute sales figures for its 454 sequencing business, which is part of Applied Science, a business area within its diagnostics division that grew 8 percent during the first three quarters, to CHF 646 million in local currencies. Year-to-date growth of the Applied Science unit, which also includes real-time PCR, sample prep, cell biology, and molecular biology products, was "driven by strong double-digit growth in the cell analysis and custom biotech segments."

Roche said it has seen "robust uptake" in the European Union and Asia Pacific for the 454 GS Junior, a benchtop sequencer launched in May that is geared at small laboratories.

Roche also noted that two German firms — IMGM Laboratories and the Center for Human Genetics and Laboratory Medicine — plan to use the GS FLX and GS Junior systems to jointly develop "robust and efficient workflows for targeted sequencing applications." In particular, the labs want to explore the technology for potential diagnostic applications (IS 8/24/2010).

While sales for the Applied Science group grew year-to-date, they decreased 2 percent during the third quarter, to CHF 197 million from CHF 213 million during the year-ago period, measured in local currencies.

A Roche spokesman said that the drop in Applied Science revenue was due to lower sales of the company's qPCR and nucleic acid purification products as a result of the reduction in H1N1 flu testing in 2010 compared to 2009.

By comparison, for the second quarter, Applied Science sales had increased 9 percent year-over-year in local currencies, to CHF 223 million; while the unit saw 19 percent year-over-year growth for the first quarter, to CHF 226 million.

Without the effect of H1N1-related sales, revenue for the Applied Science group grew by approximately 12 percent in the third quarter, the company said.

Among several "key" product launches from Applied Science this year, Roche mentioned the 454 GS Junior and the Roche NimbleGen SeqCap EZ Exome v.2 in-solution enrichment capture technology for targeted sequencing.