Some trick pony

Bio-Rad acquires QuantaLife’s new award-winning digital PCR technology

Lloyd Dunlap
HERCULES, Calif.—Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., a venerablemanufacturer and distributor of life-science research and clinical diagnosticsproducts, has acquired QuantaLife Inc. for $162 million in cash plus potentialfuture milestone payments.
 
In a frank assessment of the dominant reason for Bio-Rad'spurchase decision, company president and CEO Norman Schwartz says, "We areimpressed with QuantaLife's digital PCR technology and believe it willcomplement Bio-Rad's existing amplification business. This elegant solutionexpands the current state-of-the-art methods of quantitative PCR (qPCR), and welook forward to its adoption in life-science research."
 
 
Based in nearby Pleasanton, Calif., QuantaLife was aprivately held life sciences company until the Bio-Rad purchase. It recentlycommercialized the Droplet Digital (ddPCR) system, which the company claims isthe most accurate genetic analysis platform available today. The systemprovides researchers with a new tool for the detection of rare mutationsincluding distinguishing rare sequences in tumors, precise measurement of copynumber variation and absolute quantification of gene expression.
  
"The system is the first cost-effective, high-resolutionplatform available for the validation of next-generation sequencingdiscoveries. It is easy to use, easy to automate and easy to integrate intoexisting workflows in both life science and clinical research labs. With the ddPCRsystem, researchers can explore complex genetic landscapes in high-definition,discover new disease associations and define a new category of improvedmolecular diagnostic tests," the company said in a media release.
 
 
Based on an analysis of the personalized medicine market,Frost & Sullivan recognized QuantaLife Inc. with the 2011 North AmericanFrost & Sullivan Award for New Product Innovation for its ddPCR System.
 
 
"The QuantaLife ddPCR system introduces the next generationof PCR by providing absolute quantification of nucleic acid molecules, acapability that could play a significant role in the development of companiondiagnostics and the emergence of personalized medicine–a role that has longbeen held by real-time PCR (qPCR)," noted Frost & Sullivan in granting theaward.
 
 
"By allowing for detection of nucleic acids at higherresolution and lower target levels, Droplet Digital PCR has the ability toidentify diseases earlier in progression, providing a major advantage fordiagnostics and preventative medicine," says Dr. Bill Colson, founder and CEOof QuantaLife.
 
 
"Essentially, this new technology provides even more precisemeasurements than the gold-standard qPCR methods," says Frost & Sullivanindustry analyst Christi Bird. "The unmatched resolution allows detection oftarget molecules at extremely low levels, which has major implications for notonly precise life science research applications, but also early diagnosis ofdisease and development of accurate companion diagnostics for personalized healthcare."
 
 
QuantaLife's system consists of two instruments, the dropletgenerator and the droplet reader. The droplet generator divides each sampleinto 20,000 one-nanoliter droplets. The samples are transferred onto plates andmoved to a standard thermal cycler where the targeted DNA/RNA molecules areamplified using readily available qPCR assays. The amplified samples are thenreturned to QuantaLife's Droplet Reader where the droplets are streamedsingle-file past a two-color fluorescence detector that reads each droplet aseither positive or negative for the target DNA/RNA molecules. The systemsoftware then determines the concentration of the selected target in theoriginal sample and provides absolute quantification in digital form.
 
 
The ddPCR technology provides several advantages overtraditional real-time PCR. In particular, the system can better detect thedifference between samples with similar genomic structures, a major advantagein determining copy number variation. This precise technology can also identifya ±10 percent difference in gene expression between samples. The instrument canalso detect a rare difference against a similar and common background.
 
 
"This advantage allows extremely sensitive detection of raremutations when real-time PCR fails at certain concentration due to competitiveamplification of the common DNA," says Frost & Sullivan's Bird.
 
 
Founded in 1952, Bio-Rad is headquartered in Hercules,Calif., and serves more than 100,000 research and industry customers worldwidethrough its global network of operations. The company employs over 6,800 peopleand had revenues exceeding $1.9 billion in 2010.


Lloyd Dunlap

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