Covering the sample prep bases

Leica Microsystems acquires Bal-Tec to provide complete sample prep offering for microscopy

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WETZLAR, Germany—Leica Microsystems, providers of a range ofproducts for precision optical systems in the life sciences market, announcedrecently that it completed the acquisition of Liechtenstein-based Bal-Tec AG, amaker of mechanical and cryo sample preparation equipment for scanning electronmicroscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). No financial termsof the transaction were released.

With the acquisition, Leica officials contend it is now theonly company able to cover the breadth of sample preparation needed formicroscopy laboratories for both biological and materials sample preparation.

While the acquisition for Leica will help it gain strengthin the industrial market with its ion beam imaging systems, there are alsoample benefits in the life sciences markets where Leica has made its mark.

"Two of the Bal-Tec products will really help us with ourproduct offerings for the life sciences," says Kirsten Henze, manager ofcorporate communications for Leica. "The freeze-fracture system and the cryostorage unit will provide methods and sample preparation capabilities that wedidn't have before the acquisition of Bal-Tec."

While Leica does currently have similar products in theseareas for sample prep and storage, Ann Korsen, director of sales and marketingfor Leica's in Bannockburn, Ill.,notes that each use a different method.

"One of the things we have looked at for Leica, is we wantto be able to provide a full solution to the customers when it comes topreparing their samples," Korsen says.

"We have found that researchers havestrong preferences in how the sample is prepared and because of that we hadsome gaps in our line. With the products we added from Bal-Tec we have nowfilled those gaps."

Leica Microsystems' product range includes biological samplepreparation instruments for TEM, where Leica Microsystems is the marketleader.  The Leica EM UC6 Ultramicrotomewith FC6 Cryo attachment and the EM TP Tissue Processor are well-establishedand respected products in the market. Leica also recently entered the SEM andsolid-state sample preparation market with the launch of the Leica EM TXPTarget Preparation instrument.

For the near future, Leica will continue to operate theBal-Tec site as a technology and R&D center. Employment at the site hasreduced to 15 workers from the 30 it employed before the buyout. Henze saysthat the eliminated position at the company were primarily administrative andsales tasks that will be easily integrated into the broader Leica organization.The remaining workers are primarily researchers involved in new productdevelopment.

While there is not timetable as yet, Henze indicatedthat in time, the former Bal-Tec employees would be re-assigned to one of thecompany research centers in Germany.

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