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Beckman buys Agencourt: Deal brings reagents and SPRI technology under Beckmanís umbrella
May 2005
by Chris Anderson  |  Email the author

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FULLERTON, Calif.óWith one eye on the present and the other on the future, lab automation company Beckman Coulter Inc. announced it had reached an agreement to acquire all of the outstanding stock of Agencourt Bioscience Corp. of Beverly, Mass. for $100 million in cash. The deal also includes the possibility of extra payments of $40 million contingent on Agencourt reaching specific business milestones between now and 2007. Closing on the deal is expected later this month.
 
Agencourt, with annual sales of roughly $27 million, will provide Beckman with exclusive rights to solid phase reversible immobilization (SPRI), a proprietary magnetic bead nucleic acid purification technology, as well as a pharmacogenomic services business that currently represents the majority of Agencourt's sales. Current plans call for Agencourt to be run as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Beckman Coulter and for it to remain in its present East Coast location.
 
With the acquisition, Beckman gains a solid reagents business that stands to benefit from integrating as a single offering with Beckman equipment. But it also picks up one of the handful of companies with an active R&D program to commercialize inexpensive gene sequencing equipment, which could represent a significant diagnostic market opportunity next decade.
 
"Our strategy in the biomedical research division is two-fold," says Bruce Wallace, vice president and director of Beckman's nucleic acid business in the biomedical research division. "One is to find solutions that can be applied to our instrumentation, to provide customers with total solutions. It was clear sample prep was one area where our automation platforms play an important role. It also became clear that their reagent line fit well with our equipment line to produce a total solution.
 
"The other part of our strategy is to fuel what is called a biomedical testing continuum, to provide products and discoveries and feed our diagnostics business. We've moved into the area of molecular diagnostics and one area that is critical to our customers is sample preparation. We felt that Agencourt chemistry would fit well with our goals and objectives in this area, as well."
 
According to Lynn Doucette-Stamm, vice president of business development at Agencourt, the opportunity for increased sales of its reagent through this acquisition was hard to ignore. "We have been working to increase our reagents business, but there is only so much a company with 100 employees can do," she says. "Joining a global company with more than 10,000 employees provides us with a reach into new areas that we couldn't have easily achieved ourselves."
 
While Wallace notes that many of Beckman's customers already use Agencourt reagents, providing the reagents as an integrated solution with Beckman equipment should have an immediate impact on reagent sales. "Clearly, we have a market reach they don't have, but they also provide products in molecular diagnostics, a business that we are committed to developing."
 
Looking to the future, once the deal is completed, the two businesses will spin off a new entity called Agencourt Personal Genomics. The purpose of this business will be to build upon Agencourt's expertise in genomic sequencing, with an eye toward the development and commercialization of a "sequencing by synthesis" approach to personal genome sequencing. "We are excited about this technology and feel we are making some significant progress," says Doucette-Stamm. "These are still the early days of this technology and we need to make it much, much less expensive if we are ever going to have personal genome sequencing. But we think it is one of the cornerstones of personalized medicine of the future and could revolutionize how we look at medicine today."
 
Code: E050501

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