Going with the flow

Thermo Fisher Scientific acquires Proxeon, a proteomics workflow solution provider

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ODENSE, Demnark—In line with its strategy to provide comprehensive liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) solutions to customers engaged in complex proteomics research, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. announced in late April that it will acquire Proxeon A/S, a supplier of products for proteomics analysis.

What attracted the global leader to this latest deal was Proxeon's reputation as a provider of simplified proteomics workflows, including nanoflow liquid chromatography systems, columns, ion sources and bioinformatics software. At the center of the transaction is EASY-nLC, Proxeon's nanoflow liquid chromatography system, which Thermo Fisher has integrated into its mass spectrometry systems "to bring a focus of simplicity into complex experiments," says Iain Mylchreest, vice president and general manager of scientific instruments for life sciences and mass spectrometry at Thermo Fisher.

"Thermo Fisher has been in the proteomics space for a long time with our mass spectrometry instruments, but we have never had an LC offering, so this is a natural fit into our portfolio," Mylchreest says. "Proteomics being one of our largest focus areas, this acquisition allows us to offer a complete workflow solution to enable very complex proteomics experiments."

EASY-nLC is intended to offer busy proteomics laboratories a way to improve productivity without compromising chromatographic performance. The system features an intuitive graphical user interface, touch-screen operation and remote diagnostics capability. An autosampler allows reproducible low-nanoliter injections into the mass spectrometer. The system also provides 2D chromatographic capability to identify more proteins than conventional methods, without the increased complexity of added valves and pumps.

"I must emphasize that the real attraction for this particular technology is it is simplistic," Mylchreest notes. "It really is a plug-and-play system that you can take to the bench to resolve the complexity of chromatography. From an operational standpoint, you can get running very quickly. The performance of these devices is as high as any other NLC system on the market."

Following the closing of the transaction, Proxeon's nanoflow liquid chromatography system, along with the 40 employees who work at the company's headquarters in Odense, Denmark, will be integrated into Thermo Fisher's Analytical Technologies Segment, which serves the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, academic, government and other research and industrial markets.

For Proxeon, the acquisition is a natural event in its eight-year evolution, says Dr. Ole Vorm, the company's nano-LC technology director and site leader. Proxeon was founded by scientists from the former Protana A/S with the mission to develop products and solutions that enhance performance and accelerate the proteomics workflow. In 2004, Proxeon acquired bioinformatics development company MDS Denmark A/S to enhance its efforts in development of bioinformatics applications for proteomics research. As the company built its portfolio, it signed an OEM agreement with Bruker Daltonik which offered EASY-nLC as part of Bruker's LC/MS product portfolio.

Part of Proxeon's history includes past dealings with Thermo Fisher. Two years ago, Thermo Fisher licensed Proxeon's ProteinCenter for a data interpretation workflow before integrating EASY-nLC with Thermo Fisher's Xcalibur software suite. After becoming a registered Thermo Fisher Scientific Virtual Instrument Partner, Proxeon packaged its LC systems with Thermo Fisher's mass spectrometry instruments and sold its instruments to several Thermo Fisher demo labs.

"We have been funded by venture capital since our beginning, so it was only a matter of time before we put the company on the market," Vorm says. "We have been trying to cover a very focused niche, as opposed to having a device that supposedly works for many different markets. Thermo Fisher provides the best mass spectrometers for proteomics research, but had no nano-LC offering to go with it. By bringing the two pieces together, we have a complete solution, a turnkey offering that is going to be an attractive solution for most users. I don't think most labs like the prospect of having to piece things together–you want to get something you know works, out of the box."

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition. Thermo Fisher says it does not expect the transaction to have a material impact on its 2010 financial results. Last year, Proxeon reported approximately $10 million in revenues.

Mylchreest adds that Thermo Fisher may consider additional acquisitions as it continues to round out its mass spectrometry portfolio.

"We're always looking at new technologies, and what would be appropriate to add on to our current footprint," he says. "Although I can't comment on anything specific at this time, we're always looking for opportunities to expand our product line."

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