Custom-made deal

Invitrogen, Lentigen to provide custom lentiviral gene-overexpression products

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CARLSBAD, Calif.—When your product catalog is some 20,000 products deep and growing, it can be nary impossible to be an expert in all fields. It was with this thought in mind that Invitrogen Corp. recently entered a collaboration with lentiviral specialist Lentigen Corp., with the purpose of providing lentiviral-based gene over-expression products and services.

Under the terms of the deal, Invitrogen will exclusively commercialize the products and services derived from the partnership, while Lentigen will provide its expertise in the area of the development and production of lentiviral technologies. As part of the agreement, Invitrogen will provide access to its extensive human and mouse gene libraries for use by Lentigen for the development of ready-to-use lentiviral particles that deliver enhanced functionality and reliability for life science researchers.

"A very important factor in why we are working with Lentigen is they just have so much more experience doing custom projects," says Balwant Patel, director of market development for cloning and protein expression at Invitrogen. "They are very focused on this area. Lentivirus is becoming a very important technology and there is a pretty big pull in the market. With more than 20,000 products, it was not going to an expertise for us, but we are a big player in this area and this was a good opportunity to be better."

Lentigen, too, looks to benefit from this arrangement as the company is actively engaged in two separate business areas: as a developer of research tools, and as a company with an active research arm aimed at the development of lentiviral-enabled vaccines and therapies.

While the ongoing revenues from deals like this one with Invitrogen are important as a way to feed other company activities, that is not the only benefit.

"One benefit of operating these parallel businesses is that there
is ample cross-fertilization, which can help us think about our production technologies and how to improve them," Ravenscroft says.

Further, like many smaller biotech companies with specific expertise, the opportunity to hitch a wagon to Invitrogen's sales machine is also compelling. "We had a direct sales force," Ravenscroft notes. "But clearly, it makes more sense for a company like ours to leverage their sales and marketing while continuing to focus on our expertise."

It was that expertise that originally drew the two companies together. Hardly strangers, Invitrogen and Lentigen had provided similar customer-designed genes tagged with Lentigen's lentiviral vectors, on an ad hoc basis, for more than a year.

The recent deal does two things. First, it formalizes the arrangement whereby Lentigen will apply its lentiviral development and manufacturing technology to Invitrogen's technologies to meet the growing demand for cDNA research products. Second, it provides a platform that allows Invitrogen to market these products more broadly, leveraging Lentigen's expanded manufacturing capabilities.

"This agreement increases our capacity to deal with large lentiviral projects for our customers in the volumes that we could not handle previously due to the complexity of the technology," says Patel. "We think providing custom products or services to our customers will substantially reduce the time researcher may spend now trying to work with lentivirus particles on their own." DDN

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