Dionex detects growth opportunities with ESA Life Sciences acquisition

Company acquires assets of ESA Life Sciences' tools business to expand HPLC product portfolio

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SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Laboratory equipment maker Dionex Corp. will pay an undisclosed amount of money to purchase the life science business assets of ESA Biosciences, per an announcement made Sept. 16.

In the deal, Dionex will acquire ESA's high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) products and tests, laboratory services and related assets. ESA is a unit of Magellan Biosciences Inc. Dionex said it expects $12 million to $15 million in revenue from ESA in fiscal year 2010, and said the deal will increase its profit slightly if one-time charges are excluded. Additional financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

The acquisition will add three category-leading HPLC detector families to Dionex's HPLC product portfolio: The Corona family of Universal Charged Aerosol Detectors (CAD), a "universal" HPLC detector family targeting pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical development, manufacturing and QA/QC processes; and the CoulArray and Coulochem detectors, the leading electrochemical detectors on the market targeting neuroscience, clinical and metabolomics research applications. The Corona CAD detectors will be sold in conjunction with Dionex's HPLC equipment, or directly on third-party HPLC systems.

According to Dietrich Hauffe, vice president of corporate marketing for Dionex, the three ESA detectors help the company to fill out its HPLC product portfolio.

"It is notable that we found strong synergy between both companies to strive for innovative products, including our commitment to UHPLC technologies," Hauffe says. "The Corona CAD in particular stands out because of its ability to function as a universal detector. This makes it an excellent choice for analyses where you are trying to assay both ionic and non-ionic species, providing an additional dimension of characterizing compounds next to UV detection that is generally being used."

Combined with Dionex's expertise in electrochemistry detection for carbohydrates and glycobiology, officials say this acquisition will position Dionex as a key provider of comprehensive electrochemistry solutions for liquid chromatography.

"Dionex is dedicated to increasing our presence in life science applications as we see a large opportunity for future growth in this area," notes Dr. Frank Witney, president and CEO of Dionex. "We are very excited about the addition of the Life Sciences Tools business unit of ESA Biosciences, its product lines and services to our HPLC product portfolio. ESA Biosciences has a distinguished history of innovation, especially with its proprietary Corona ultra detector that provides UHPLC capabilities, representing the first-in-class universal UHPLC detector."

Witney points out that ESA's electrochemical detector family, the CoulArray multi-electrode array and the Coulochem detectors will expand his company's HPLC offering and help it serve its customer demands by providing a broader and stronger spectrum of sensitive and robust HPLC and UHPLC application solutions.

Hauffe says the acquisition is part of its growth strategy, including a long-term goal to increase Dionex's presence in life science applications.

"We are known as the worldwide leader in ion chromatography," he says. "However, we also have a complete range of performance leading HPLC and UHPLC system solutions. The addition of the ESA detectors broadens our range of solutions, especially for life science applications in pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing, as well as bioscience, neuroscience and clinical and metabolomics research."

Hauffe says that combined with the company's knowledge in electrochemistry detection for carbohydrates and glycobiology, the acquisition also gives Dionex a leg-up as a provider of electrochemistry solutions for liquid chromatography.

"The joint research and development forces allow me to look into a promising future of innovative electrochemical and universal detector technology," he says.

The acquisition also will be a boon for Dionex's customers, Hauffe adds.

"Previously, customers have had to add ESA detectors to existing HPLC systems," says Hauffe. "Going forward, customers interested in this technology will be able to buy a complete system solution from a single vendor. They will have one partner who manufactures, installs and supports the complete system."

Once the acquisition is completed, Hauffe says the company is looking for increases in market share with top-line sales growth at targeted margins.

"We certainly will be using all of our worldwide direct distribution channels and offer our worldwide customers immediate access to the products," he says.

The company also will be keeping its options open with regard to additional acquisition, notes Hauffe.

"We are always looking at opportunities to grow the business," he concludes. "However, to be seriously considered, they must fit in and enhance the Dionex business model."

ESA Biosciences officials also were piqued by the acquisition.

"ESA stands for the highest quality products and services in specialty detection and electrochemistry, as well as superior technical and applications expertise," says Dr. Jasmine Gruia-Gray, president of ESA Biosciences' Life Sciences Tools business unit. "We see excellent synergy with Dionex from a technology perspective, as well as both of our long histories of creating novel applications solutions. Our combined strength in separation sciences and universal and UHPLC/HPLC detector innovation will provide our customers an industry standard, comprehensive set of analytical solutions across a wide range of applications industries."
The sale also will allow Magellan to refocus its business efforts. Dr. Robert J. Rosenthal, Magellan president and CEO, says the sale will enable the company to concentrate on its clinical diagnostic customers.
"We can now apply all of our resources to developing and supporting innovation in diagnostic products that give clinicians the answers they need to make more-informed treatment decisions for superior, outcomes-based care," he adds. "Stay tuned. Over the next several months we will be highlighting the new diagnostics-focused Magellan. In the meantime, customers can continue to count on the Magellan brands and people they've come to know: LeadCare for blood-lead-testing systems, Dynex for automated ELISA processing systems and TREK for microbiology."

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