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Agilent Technologies grows life- science business with strategic acquisitions in next-generation sequencing and automated analytical solutions for pharma

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Early December saw three announcementsfrom Agilent Technologies Inc. that it had signed acquisition agreements. Twodeals were designed to expand its life-sciences business, with strategicacquisitions of Halo Genomics, a provider of technology for the next-generationDNA sequencing market, and BioSystem Development, which creates andmanufactures solutions for life-science analytical needs.
Rounding out the trio was Accelicon Technologies, whichprovides device-level modeling and validation software for the electronicsindustry.
All three companies are privately held, and no financialdetails of the deals were disclosed. The acquisition of Uppsala, Sweden-basedHalo was already final by the time of the announcement, while the deal forMadison, Wis.-based BioSystem was expected to close by the end of 2011 and thedeal for Cupertino-based Accelicon in early 2012.
"Life science is the growth engine for Agilent, and theseacquisitions are strategically very important," said Nick Roelofs, president ofAgilent's Life Sciences Group, in the official statement about the Halo andBioSystem deals. "We're getting world-class technology and expertise in two keyareas that will help us expand our portfolio and deliver the most completeworkflow solutions for our customers." 
Halo Genomics' technology addresses sequence-selective—thatis, target enrichment—sample preparation next-generation sequencing, with thecompany's proprietary HaloPlex technology combining the speed and specificityof polymerase chain reaction-based systems with the scalability and capture-sizeflexibility of solution-based hybridization formats, thus eliminating the needfor library preparation.
"As the leader in target enrichment, it makes sense forAgilent to further our product line with innovative products. HaloPlex offersrapid, library prep-free target enrichment for smaller captures up to 500kb. Aperfect match with our SureSelect product," Robert Schueren, vice president andgeneral manager of Agilent's genomics business, tells ddn. "We think HaloPlex will compliment SureSelect nicely, whileoffering a more rapid protocol for smaller captures."
In addition, he notes, Agilent customers will now simplyhave better flexibility in choosing one or the other platform if they desire.
Halo Genomics' current HaloPlex technology is offered as acustomizable product, using a web-based design tool called Web Design Wizard,which Agilent describes as a "highly intuitive tool" that enables users tocreate designs in less than 10 minutes at no charge.
"Halo Genomics' unique technology and talented R&D teamwill expand Agilent's solutions for emerging sequencing applications andaccelerate our entry into the rapidly growing next-gen clinical sequencingmarket," said Gustavo Salem, vice president and general manager of Agilent'sBiological Systems Division within the Life Sciences Group, in the news releaseabout the deal. "This acquisition further builds upon Agilent's position as aleader in genomics."
BioSystem presents a more organic acquisition, perhaps,given that it and Agilent already had a relationship.
"We have been partnering with BioSystem Development foralmost two years on the co-development of the AssayMAP 96 syringe head for theAgilent Bravo liquid handler," Yvonne Linney, vice president and generalmanager of Agilent's Automation Solutions Group, tells ddn. "Agilent was the exclusive distributor to the 96-well formatof the AssayMAP cartridges and recently launched a portfolio of cartridges forprotein isolation and purification. These include Protein A, for generalantibody capture and immunoprecipitation, Trypsin for rapid, on columndigestion, Reverse Phase for sample prep clean up and Streptavidin for generalcapture of biotin labeled targets." 
As life-science discovery and development continues to movetoward a better understanding of biological responses to disease, the need forhigh-throughput, quality protein sample preparation and analysis becomes evenmore critical, noted Fred Strohmeier, vice president and general manager ofAgilent's Liquid Phase Analysis Division within the company's Life SciencesGroup, in the news release about the deal. BioSystem Development's AssayMAPplatform, based on disposable microchromatography cartridges, enableshigh-throughput protein purification, characterization and analysis solutionsfor bioprocess development, biomarker identification and analysis, as well as avariety of other life-science research applications.
The enabling AssayMAP technology, combined with Agilent'sautomated liquid-handling capabilities, will reduce drug discovery and developmenttime and increase lab efficiency.
"With Agilent's continued focus and growth in bioanalysisand life-science research this technology provides an array of opportunitiesfor continued development in this area; by acquiring the technology, we wouldbe able to provide the investment required to continue to evolve the platform,"Linney says. "Our sample-prep portfolio continues to evolve and the AssayMAPplatform provides a format to build on. With our capabilities in mediadevelopment, strengthened through the Varian acquisition and automated liquidhandling, we believe that we can continue to develop our products for sampleprep in front of our analytical platforms."
Linney adds that while the BioSystem acquisition does notimmediately enable anything new at Agilent, "it will strengthen the product andassay development portfolio. You can expect to see more dedicated assayofferings from Agilent in the future."
The Accelicon acquisition, while important to Agilent'soverall business, has no direct impact on life sciences. The acquisition, ledby Agilent's EEsof EDA organization, will further enhance Agilent's leadershipin semiconductor device modeling. As Agilent notes, accurate, verified devicemodels are critical to reduce R&D design cycles as higher frequencies,smaller technology nodes, new materials and device layouts call for moreaccurate process design kits. As a result, device modeling continues to be oneof the most critical parts of the electronics design flow.
Accelicon was the first company to offer a dedicatedplatform for device models validation, Janet Smith, Agilent's North Americanpublic relations manager for the Electronic Measurement Group, tells ddn.
"Others have similar tools, but Accelicon's MQA is theindustry standard tool," she notes. "There is no real linkage to the LifeSciences part of Agilent [with this acquisition]. Historically, Agilentmodeling focus has been on compound semiconductor modeling for RF applicationsto support the design and fabrication of components for our RF instruments."

Agilent Technologies,Monash University team up on genomics research in Malaysia
SELANGOR, Malaysia—Agilent Technologies Inc. and MonashUniversity announced last month a collaboration to promote talent and skillsdevelopment for genomics research in Malaysia.
The partnership, the first of its kind for Agilent with auniversity in Malaysia, will help Malaysia assert itself as a leading centerfor life sciences research and development in Southeast Asia, according to thetwo parties. Under the agreement, a center of excellence called theMonash-Agilent Authorized Microarray Service Center (AMSC) will be establishedat Monash University's Sunway campus. The center will be equipped with thelatest microarray instruments and provide competency training for the center'slab professionals undertaking molecular-genetic studies of human disease.
The collaboration will see knowledge-sharing between bothorganizations, including real-time communication of new developments in thefield of microarray applications as well as networking with Agilent's globalcustomers.
"The establishment of the AMSC will be a timely boost in thecollaboration between Agilent and Monash University Sunway campus through theJeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, providing the opportunityto access advanced technologies to strengthen our current genomics research indiabetes, cancer, neurobiology and infectious diseases," said Prof. Dato Dr.Anuar Zaini Zain, head of the school, in a press release.

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