The company announced this week that it has acquired BIOCIUS Life Sciences, developer of a high-throughput mass spectrometry drug-screening platform for the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical markets, as well as Lab901, an electrophoresis equipment and consumables company. Both companies' technologies utilize microfluidic components. Financial details for both acquisitions were not disclosed.
BIOCIUS' drug-screening technology has reportedtly screened millions of compounds, providing results 10 to 100 times faster than traditional screening methods. Using high-throughput mass spectrometry and components based on microfluidics, the system enables researchers to gain a fuller understanding of a drug's biochemical properties, including potential liabilities in drug interactions.
"[BIOCIUS' technology] gives customers an unsurpassed ability to increase the effectiveness and reduce the cost of drug discovery and compound identification," said Gustavo Salem, Vice President of Agilent's Biological Systems Division within the company's Life Sciences Group. "With this technology and the team that developed it now part of Agilent, we can expand our reach in the pharmaceutical and clinical mass spec markets."
"[BIOCIUS'] instrumentation and research services are highly valued by leading drug discovery researchers around the globe," said Jeffrey Leathe, former Chairman and CEO of BIOCIUS. "As we continued to leverage those relationships and our experience into current and new markets, the natural evolution of the company was to partner with a world-class organization to accelerate our application development and further market penetration. Agilent's breadth of global resources and market strategy are the best fit for BIOCIUS to drive [our systems] into new markets going forward."
Based in Wakefield, Mass., privately held BIOCIUS was formed in 2009 as a spinoff from BioTrove Inc. Named from the Greek word "bio" (life) and the Latin word "ocius" (faster), BIOCIUS provided products and services committed to speed and accuracy across a range of applications, including drug discovery and ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) applications in pharmacokinetics and pharmacology. According to the company, 13 of the top 14 biopharmaceutical companies use products from BIOCIUS. The company employed about 25 people, who have now joined Agilent.
BIOCIUS says that its "ultra high-speed automated valving, solid-phase extraction, and data-processing systems," when coupled with their mass spectrometers, provide extremely high sample throughput for the biopharmaceutical market.
BIOCIUS' system is designed for high-throughput screening of in vitro ADME assays. According to company sources, combining the accurate mass capabilities of Agilent's time-of-flight mass spectrometers and the "unprecedented" sample processing speed of BIOCIUS' technology, the instrument has "revolutionized" in vitro ADME analysis by eliminating the method development bottleneck in drug discovery.
Agilent's other acquisition this week, Lab901, is an electrophoresis equipment and consumables company based in Edinburgh, U.K. The company's automated electrophoresis products are used for DNA, RNA and protein analysis.
Lab901 develops and markets its benchtop electrophoresis instrument, plastic-based consumables and associated reagents. Customers include scientists in pharma, bio-pharma R&D and quality control, as well as academic and government institutions. Founded in 2001, Lab901 employs around 45 people.
"With the addition of Lab901's outstanding technology and talented team, Agilent can now address customer needs across the entire span of electrophoresis life science applications -- from semi-automated to 96-well-plate compatible workflows," said Patrick Kaltenbach, Vice President of Agilent's Liquid Phase Separations business. "Alongside our existing platforms and electrophoresis systems, the Lab901 [system] provides a very versatile, automated and scalable throughput gel electrophoresis solution for a wide range of applications."
Lab901 says that its system is a fast and convenient benchtop automated system for gel electrophoresis. Customers reportedly simply load their samples and the consumable into the compact instrument and within as little as one minute per sample, fully analyzed results for protein, RNA and DNA samples are displayed.
Lab901 says that, with its combination of automation, ease of use and scalable throughput, the company's system is ideally suited for sample quality control in next-generation sequencing and gene expression workflows as well as protein electrophoresis and DNA fragment analysis in core labs. In these applications, apparently, time to result and reproducibility of data is critical.
"We have always recognized the strong synergy between our two companies," said Joel Fearnley, Lab901's former CEO, who will join Agilent Technologies along with the rest of his employees. "Lab901's innovative technology, exciting products and experienced team are a perfect fit with Agilent's culture and pioneering history. We look forward to offering our global customers an unrivalled portfolio of advanced products to address their electrophoresis needs."
Lab901's product offerings will complement Agilent's exiting electrophoresis portfolio. Launched in 1999, Agilent says that its "bioanalyzer" was the first commercially available instrument to use microfluidics technology for the analysis of biological samples. The "bioanalyzer" is used for RNA and DNA QC in microarray, qPCR and next-generation workflows. Agilent said that it has just recently extended the chip supply agreement for this platform and will continue to develop new applications for it.
Newly introduced in 2009, Agilent's capillary electrophoresis system is a benchtop electrophoresis platform. It is compatible with a wide range of detectors ranging from UV (ultraviolet absorbance) to LIF (laser-induced fluorescence) to MS (mass spectrometry) to CCDs (contactless conductivity detectors).
Agilent Technologies is a measurement company and a technology provider in chemical analysis, life sciences, electronics and communications. The company has 18,500 employees in more than 100 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $5.4 billion in fiscal 2010.