Going with the flow

Millipore acquires Guava Technologies to further strengthen its position in the flow cytometry market

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BILLERICA, Mass.—Less than a year after inking a distribution and co-development agreement with Guava Technologies for its flow cytometry instrumentation, reagents and assays in selected disciplines, Millipore Corp. announced in early February it had acquired the Hayward, Calif.-based company for $22.6 million, subject to certain closing adjustments.

For Millipore, the acquisition comes as the company sees an increasing opportunity in for flow cytometers in the cell biology market and specifically in the anticipated upswing of interest in, and research conducted on, stems cells. Under the terms of last year's deal, the companies were also engaged in the co-development of a next generation flow cytometer, one that the company now expects to release later this year.

According to John DiVincenzo, president of Millipore's Bioscience Division, the Guava product opens up an entirely new market for flow cytometry, a market that has been primarily restricted to core labs due to the price of more robust flow cytometers, as well as the need to have trained flow cytometry experts on staff to run the instruments.

"What the Guava technology allows is a plug-and-play, bench top flow cytometer that has some limitations in the types of assays that can be run," DiVincenzo notes. "But for routine work, it is a phenomenal technology in that you no longer needed to have a trained flow cytometer person for that application."

With a price point in the $35,000 to $55,000 range, the Guava flow cytometer opens up the market to a range of new customers from smaller pharmaceutical and biotech companies to university labs.

"The genesis of Millipore getting involved with Guava was the realization that general cell biologists wanted to be able to monitor the health of their cells to be able to understand some of the biomarkers of their cell lines," says DiVincenzo.

In addition, Millipore has also provided a way for Guava to bring to market a complete solution for their flow cytometers. The company has a strong technology and IP base, but it was not of the size to be able to develop the needed associated reagents and assays to bundle with its instrument. Through the co-development agreement of last year, the two companies began introducing in July an integrated offering of flow cytometers, kits, reagents and services.

In October, Millipore introduced six new flow cytometry kits under the FlowCellect name to aid researchers in their embryonic and neural stem cell research and shortly thereafter introduced FlowCellect kits for chemokine receptors.

While the big prize in the deal for Millipore is Guava's flow cytometer, the company should also benefit from a reasonably sophisticated informatics capability Guava built as an enabling technology for its cytometry instrument.

"Guava has built a respectable bioinformatics capability, so that is a platform that we would like to use for other types of technologies," DiVincenzo says. "Millipore hasn't had any presence at all in bioinformatics capabilities. At Guava they have a small team in this area, but it is a handful of people that have grown up in the industry and have solid expertise in bioinformatics."

Millipore plans to leave virtually the entire 60-person team at Guava intact and operating out of its California facility. The Guava name will continue under the Millipore umbrella as the flow cytometry brand within the company.

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