Thermo Fisher Scientific stakes claim in diagnostics

Acquisition of high-performance PCR solution provider Finnzymes gives the company a foothold in molecular diagnostics market

Amy Swinderman
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WALTHAM, Mass.—Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. announced last month that it entered into an agreement to acquire Finnzymes, a provider of integrated tools for molecular biology analysis, including reagents, instruments, consumables and kits based in Espoo, Finland, with plans to use Finnzyme's high-performance polymerase chain reaction (PCR) solutions as a platform to strengthen its position in the PCR-based molecular diagnostics market.

According to Mitch Kennedy, vice president and general manager of biosciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Finnzyme's DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology—Phire and Phusion—as well as the company's high-speed, miniaturized thermal cyclers will strengthen Thermo Fisher Scientific's portfolio of life science reagents and consumables.

In addition, Finnzymes' plans to expand into molecular diagnostics with tests that are based on PCR may provide Thermo Fisher Scientific with an entrÈe into this market, Kennedy says. The company recently released two new reagent kits that identify all main mastitis bacteria from bovine milk in four hours: the PathoProof Mastitis Complete-12 Kit, which identifies the main mastitis-causing bacteria, and the PathoProof Mastitis Major-3 Kit for identifying the three highly contagious mastitis-causing bacteria.

"We definitely have customers in common, and Finnzymes has a very strong reputation in the marketplace, particularly among customers who are PCR savvy," Kennedy says. "I like to compare this acquisition to having a great car, but once you add a camper to it, you increase the car's utility. Finnzymes' portfolio gives us a few components to test in the near future."

These products will complement the recently launched Thermo Scientific Solaris qPCR gene expression assays and, together, deliver a more complete solution for customers, Kennedy says. In addition, combining the gene-specific MGB-based probes from Thermo Scientific with the advanced enzyme performance from Finnzymes will further enhance qPCR assay technology, Kennedy says.

Finnzymes' portfolio of fusion proteins can improve and enhance the properties of enzymes used in PCR, Kennedy says. Phire polymerases are used in kits that amplify DNA directly from a variety of animal and plant tissues, while Phusion polymerases amplify DNA from whole blood and for bacterial profiling. According to Finnzymes, these technologies are faster and more accurate than Taq-based polymerases and are ideal for both routine and high-throughput PCR applications.

"The addition of Phire and Phusion will increase the performance of our Solaris qPCR assays to deliver a more complete solution for our customers," Kennedy says.

Finnzyme's Piko brand thermal cyclers will also be Thermo Fisher's first instrumentation platform for PCR, Kennedy says. The Piko platform is available in 24- and 96-well formats and is about half the size of conventional thermal cyclers but can complete a PCR protocol in about 10 minutes. Thermo Fisher Scientific considering adding medium- or large-sized PCR instrument platforms to complement the small size of Piko, Kennedy says.

"Their Piko cycler was attractive to us because it enables scientists to buy an instrument to do their own PCR, which is one of the most used techniques in life sciences. This makes it easier and cheaper for scientists to work in their own space."

Finnzymes also brings to the table 90 employees and a strong balance sheet, as the company reported revenues of $20 million last year. Finnzymes will be integrated primarily into Thermo Fisher Scientific's Analytical Technologies segment, with some equipment and consumables product lines being added to the Laboratory Products and Services Segment. As the deal had not yet closed by press time, Kennedy said it was too early to comment on whether the company will retain Finnzymes' facilities and employees in Finland, but he did add that Thermo Fisher Scientific also has a strong presence in Finland.

The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2010. Thermo Fisher Scientific said it does not expect this transaction to have a material impact on its 2010 financial results. Specific financial details were not disclosed.

"This transaction is a very positive step for both companies, combining the innovation in PCR/qPCR from Finnzymes with the greater resources and commercial reach of Thermo Fisher Scientific in all areas of research and diagnostics," said Pekka Mattila, CEO of Finnzymes, in a statement.

Amy Swinderman

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