Going with the flow

EMD Millipore acquires cell-imaging instrument maker Amnis

SEATTLE—In an effort to strengthen its bioscience business,EMD Millipore, the life science division of Merck KGaA of Germany, has acquiredAmnis Corp., a cell-imaging instrumentation maker based here.
 
 
Financial terms of the deal have not been released. Thetransaction is subject to regulatory approvals and closing is expected to takeplace in the fourth quarter.
According to Steffen Grimminger, director of CommunicationStrategy & Governance for EMD Millipore, the acquisition will help EMDMillipore to execute upon its strategy to build a powerful systems biologyplatform.
 
"Currently, there are no solutions available that enable customersto directly link the outputs of flow and image analysis," he says."Specifically, confirming flow data with image analysis, linkingmulti-parameter flow data with protein localization via imaging and connectingcell characteristics such as morphology to protein expression. All of these aresignificant unmet needs that we have validated through extensive marketanalysis and voice of customer through our rigorous strategic planningprocess."
 
 
Jonathan DiVincenzo, head of the Bioscience business unit withinEMD Millipore, says the acquisition of Amnis significantly contributes to thecompany's strategy to be a leader in cellular analysis and systems biology.
 
 
"Amnis' technology will put EMD Millipore at the forefrontof cell analysis by providing us access to breakthrough, combined imaging flowcytometry, addressing several unmet needs in the field of cell analysis andsystems biology," he says. "Today, there are no comparable alternatives thatenable our customers to combine flow cytometry and image analysis in oneintegrated solution. With this acquisition, EMD Millipore becomes the onlyprovider of this technology."
 
 
This is the second acquisition for EMD Millipore this year.In March, Merck acquired the microbiology business of Biotest AG of Germany andadded it to the operations of EMD Millipore, to boost its business in hygienemonitoring and ready-to-use media products for contamination detection.
 
 
Grimminger says both EMD Millipore and its parent companyMerck KGaA have a long-term view when considering acquisitions.
 
"It is kind of hard to measure success when a technologythat was created by a company of 40 people gets integrated into an organizationwith 40,000 employees," he says. "Having said that, it will be truly rewardingfor EMD Millipore to be the only provider of the flow and image analysistechnology going forward."
 
 
Amnis has had an interesting path to date. The company spunout of the University of Washington in 1998. It makes an imaging device thatprovides detailed images of large numbers of cells, potentially enablingresearchers to detect trace amounts of cancer in a blood sample, or determinewhether a drug will hit a particular protein target. The company's customersinclude academic researchers and big drugmakers.
 
 
According to David Basiji, CEO of Amnis, the main reasonbehind his company's decision to sell was to accelerate the growth of itstechnology.
 
 
"We're comfortably profitable, and our business has grown atan 80 percent compounded annual rate since 2005," he says, "but with theaddition of the lower price/higher volume FlowSight product, plus threeclinical applications in development, we now have far more to do than we canfund organically."
 
 
Amnis generated sales of $14 million in 2010.
 
 
Basiji also points out that Amnis' technology is highlycomplementary to EMD Millipore's existing flow cytometry-related products andcapabilities, both from an instrumentation and application perspective.
 
"It's too early to talk about specific strategic moves, butI think we have all the ingredients in place to become a major player in allaspects of cellular analysis and systems biology," he says. "This will help usto drive the penetration of Amnis' technology, not only with our combinedcustomer base, but also in adjacent fields and markets of cell analysis wherewe see a huge potential. We expect Millipore will both accelerate our existingprojects as well as allow us to broaden into areas we've wanted to go, buthaven't been able to pursue due to resource constraints."
 
 
Amnis, which currently has 40 employees, will remain inSeattle with its existing staff and management, according to Basiji.


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