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Invitrogen expands share in nanotechnology market: Acquires Quantum Dot and BioPixels
November 2005
by Randall C. Willis  |  Email the author


CARLSBAD, Calif.—Instrumentation and services company Invitrogen picked up nanotechnology specialists Quantum Dots, based in Hayward, Calif., and the BioPixels business unit of Westerville, Ohio-based BioCrystal, as well as licensing novel nanocluster technology from Atlanta's Georgia Tech Research Corp. (GTRC). With two acquisitions and a licensing deal, Invitrogen dramatically expanded its share of the nanolabel market and enhanced the product portfolio of its Molecular Probes division. Financial terms were not disclosed.
According to a report released by Business Communications Co., the overall nanotechnology applications market in the life sciences is expected to exceed $910 million in 2005 and rise to $3.4 billion by 2010, an average annual growth rate of 30.3 percent. At present, nanoparticles comprise 21.4 percent of this market, but they are expected to surpass nanodevices (the current leader) and comprise 39.6 percent by 2010.
"The intellectual property (IP) owned or licensed under Quantum Dots and BioPixels make up the bulk of the issued and pending patents known today," says Augie Sick, general manager of Invitrogen's Molecular Probes division. "Quantum Dots IP primarily covers the core crystal and outer shell while BioPixel primarily covers novel functional coatings, as well as important applications such as nanocrystals on and/or in beads."
Similarly, the GRTC technology involves the scaffolding of gold and silver atoms to form highly fluorescent and stable nanoclusters, which offer brightness more intense than quantum dots.
The moves will mean significant staffing changes for the organizations involved.
"We have consolidated the BioPixel staff with Molecular Probes in Eugene, Oregon," says Sick.  "We are currently working through the transition of Quantum Dots with Molecular Probes and the integration will lead to a staged consolidation with the Molecular Probes operation in Eugene."
Shara Rosen, In Vitro Diagnostics specialist for, believes these moves reinforce the leading market position held by Invitrogen through its earlier acquisitions of Molecular Probes and Dynal. When added to the acquired software capability via Informax and bioarray product development deals with Zyomyx and Agilent, Rosen says, you have wrapped into one company disparate pieces of a puzzle all of which form a powerful set of test labeling systems.

According to Sick, the three technologies will complement Invitrogen's existing portfolio of organic fluorophore-based products and the company expects to position the nanocrystals in applications where photobleaching is a problem and low-cost, single-excitation light sources can be used. He also suggests that the technologies may be multiplexed to form the basis of high-content assays offering improved workflows and enabling new applications in a wider market segment, such as high-content cellular imaging, molecular imaging in animals, and single-molecule detection for research and medical diagnostics.
"Invitrogen is taking a bit of a calculated risk," Rosen says. "It is expected that nano-based techniques will prevail for all types of analyses—biowar, infectious diseases, in vivo cell signaling studies and tissue analysis for drug discovery. The validity of this is still emerging, and Invitrogen is preparing to be at the front of the wave as it comes forward."

"The deals give us added breadth in labeling and detection technologies and provides a strong competitive barrier to disrupt our current franchise," says Sick. "We expect to continue to be the single-source provider for superior labeling and detection technologies for life science research and medical technologies."
Code: E110503



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