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UBS Global Life Sciences Conference, Day 1: Meridian, Bruker, RainDance, Sequenom

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UBS Global Life Sciences Conference kicked off Monday in New York with a number of life science tools firms and molecular diagnostics companies making their pitches to the investor community.

Earlier today, GenomeWeb Daily News provided a look at the presentations made by Illumina and Agilent Technologies in the morning session at the conference. This article reports on the pitches made to investors by Meridian Bioscience, Bruker, RainDance Technologies, and Sequenom in the afternoon.

Meridian Bioscience

Meridian Bioscience CEO Jack Kraeutler discussed the firm's growing molecular diagnostics franchise, which launched with the US Food and Drug Administration's clearance of the firm's illumigene C. difficile molecular amplification assay in the summer of 2010.

Meridian expects its 2011 revenues to be between $183 million and $192 million, of which diagnostics are estimated to provide $122 million. While the firm anticipates its C. difficile test to contribute about 8 percent of those sales in 2011, it expects that number to rise to around 23 percent in 2012.

Kraeutler also provided a look at the company's illumigene test portfolio. Among the upcoming products is a test for Group B strep, which has been filed with FDA and the firm hopes to launch in the US next month. It hopes to launch tests for Group A strep and M. pneumoniae next year followed by a molecular test for whooping cough.

Krautler said that Meridian had 450 customers through the end of its third quarter, June 30, for the illumigene platform. It expects the average customer to spend around $50,000 on the C. diificile test.

He also said that he expects products from Bioline, a molecular reagents provider the firm acquired in July 2010, to contribute around $15 million in sales in fiscal-year 2011 and around $20 million in 2012.

Bruker

Bruker President and CEO Frank Laukien told investors that despite a weak US academic market, Bruker expects to outpace the life science tools market in revenue growth over the next couple of years -- the result of the firm diversifying its customer base over recent years. According to Laukien, the firm had around two-thirds of its revenue base tied to academic customers just a few years ago, but now that segment is heading toward around 50 percent, with the remainder coming from applied-industrial markets, biopharma, and diagnostics.

Laukien said that he believes the life science tools sector is looking at flat to 2 percent growth over the next couple of years, but Bruker believes it can achieve revenue growth of approximately 10 percent for 2012. In addition to the diversification of its end markets, Laukien said the rosy outlook also is the result of a strong academic market in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe.

For example, he said Poland now accounts for around 1 percent of the firm's total sales, which is up significantly. In addition, European grants for scientific infrastructure were approved over the past few years, which has meant dollars coming Bruker's way.

Laukien also provided an update on the Varian product lines, which the firm acquired last year. Bruker hadn't disclosed the purchase price at the time, but Laukien said Monday that the post-acquisition adjusted price was $32.5 million. He expects those product lines to provide the firm with around $100 million in revenue in 2012.

RainDance Technologies

RainDance Technologies, a sample prep and microfluidics technologies firm which made a splash at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference early in the year when its said that its digital PCR system will offer more than one million data points per sample, may have surprised competitors again when President and CEO Roopom Banerjee announced the impending launches of two new platforms.

First, Banerjee said that the digital PCR system, which will be launched in the second quarter of next year, will offer 10 million data points per sample, not the one million previously predicted. He said this will be a 500 to 1,000-fold improvement over competing technologies. (For more on this platform and RainDance's plans for the digital PCR space, please see GWDN sister publication PCR Insider.)

The second announcement was that the firm will introduce its ThunderStorm system next month, a next-generation version of its RDT 1000 instrument for sequence enrichment and targeted sequencing applications that will enable single-cell sequencing for as little as $100 per sample. RainDance has been able to bring the expected price down, Banerjee noted, due to its alliance with Sony DADC to produce microdroplet chips using Sony's Blu-Ray technology.

The ThunderStorm system is completely automated, has a 15 minute load time, and is completely random access.

Banerjee noted that Ambry Genetics would begin offering next-generation targeted sequencing services on the platform when it launches.

Banerjee also noted a variety of alliances the firm has signed to develop chips for Autism, X-linked disorders, ADME, and HLA applications. In particular, he cited the company's ADMESeq chip, which will provide all of the known pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic genes and is flexible enough to add content easily as new markers are discovered.

Sequenom

Sequenom EVP of R&D Ron Lindsay stuck with the firm's previously given timelines for commercialization of its T21 tests. The company still expects to launch a laboratory developed test through its Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine either at the end of this year or during the first quarter of 2012. It also still plans on an FDA filing for the test in late 2012 or early 2013. The test will run on the Illumina HiSeq 2000 platform and should provide a turnaround of eight to 10 days for results, which is comparable to amniocentesis.

Sequenom has met some of its goals for the test this year, including upping its sales team to 20 people by the end of August in advance of the T21 test launch. It has yet to establish reimbursement and pricing for the test, and it expects to install its sequencing capacity during the fourth quarter. in July, it inked a three-year supply agreement with Illumina to purchase sequencers and consumables or the T21 test.

Sequenom also launched through CMM earlier this year its test for age-related macular degeneration. The test runs on its MassArray instrument, and according to Lindsay the test provides opportunities to predict the risk of developing AMD, the risk of wet AMD, and the response to VEGF drugs.

Sequenom finished its most recent quarter with $114 million in cash, which it believes can fund operations through the end of 2012.

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