HAMBURG, Germany—To focus its business on cell imaging and handling technologies, Evotec Technologies GmbH sold the core of its single-molecule detection (SMD) technology and related IP to imaging specialist Olympus. The two companies started working together more than five years ago and the collaboration eventually led to Olympus's MF20 fluorescence spectroscopy system and Evotec's Clarina SMD system.
"Looking at 2005 revenue numbers, you can clearly see that revenues directly resulting from SMD have been fairly low; approximately €2.5 million," says Dr. Carsten Claussen, CEO of Evotec Technologies. Instead, the company generated the majority of its revenues from sales of cellular technologies, including its high-end bench top devices Opera, Insight Cell and CytoClone.
"Evotec Technologies' strategic focus is on instrumentation for automated cell biology," he adds. "More recent installations of our ultrahigh-throughput screening (uHTS) platforms—for example, the screening platform that we will soon deliver to the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to run a state-of-the-art uHTS screening facility in Ohio—are typically aimed at such applications."
Unlike Evotec, Claussen continues, Olympus has accumulated significant technical and marketing know how in this marketspace. In addition, he believes that universities are a key customer group for this technology and with the company's sales and distribution channels, he sees Olympus as being in the ideal position to fully exploit the potential of SMD technology.
For Olympus, the deal offers the opportunity to further solidify its core competence in imaging technology, which it uses to develop microscopes and molecular imaging devices, says Yasushi Iushi of Olympus's investor relations group.
"In order to expand our business in the bio area, it is crucial for Olympus to have sensing—analysis, measurement, etc.—technology as well," Iushi explains. "By providing both imaging and sensing technology to the bio market, [Olympus] aims to contribute to the next-generation healthcare."
The deal supports a basic point of the March 2005 Frost & Sullivan report Emerging Technologies in Microscopy, which suggested that product integration would play an increasing role in the adoption of new technologies in the life sciences, as well as other industries.
"Many developers are beginning to see the market advantages of integration, offering total systems designed for a particular application," said Frost analyst Katherine Austin. "For instance, non-destructive testing of materials, or live-cell imaging combined with chemical or binding analysis, are some of the cost-effective combinations preferred by researchers."
Evotec Technologies will continue to market devices based on the IP portfolio as it relates to the company's drug discovery solutions. "In addition, we have the option to incorporate SMD functionality directly into our cell handling and analysis product lines, to enable single-molecule analysis directly inside living cells, an emerging application of SMD technology, which might allow a new level of insight into cellular processes on the molecular level," Claussen says.