"Molecular Update"

“Liked the Product–Bought the Company,” BD Acquires HandyLab and Jaguar System

IT WAS 1979 WHEN VICTOR KIAM jump-started sales of Remington electric razors with his classic, witty ad campaign, “I liked the product so much, I bought the company!” Now the same thing is happening with a benchtop-sized automated system for molecular PCR testing.

In this case, it is Becton Dickenson and Company (BD) which liked HandyLab, Inc.’s Jaguar Automated PCR System so much that it bought the company. BD announced the agreement to acquire HandyLab, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, on October 23, 2009.

This acquisition came only five months after HandyLab and BD announced a deal where BD would private label the HandyLab Jaguar system. BD began selling the Jaguar system to its lab customers under the name “BD MAX.” It used the BD MAX system as a way to automate its BD GeneOhm menu of molecular tests used to detect major pathogens associated with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Need For More Education

For pathologists and lab administrators tracking developments in the molecular testing marketplace, the BD-HandyLab relationship has several useful insights. One is that smaller companies may be able to develop innovative molecular assays and automated molecular testing systems, but the sizeable resources and sales effort required to achieve profitable market share often exceed the capability of young companies with limited funds.

HandyLab’s Jaguar system was considered to be a robust solution for automating real-time PCR testing, including specimen prep, amplification, and extraction. As an open system, it was designed to be an attractive solution that community hospital labs could use to automate molecular tests that were being performed manually.

BD recognized that HandyLab’s Jaguar system was a robust solution for such hospital lab customers. “As hospital screening and testing programs expand, they will require flexible, state-of-the-art automation systems like BD MAX [formerly the HandyLab Jaguar] to support their evolving needs,” said Colleen T. White, Director of Corporate Communications at BD. “In particular, it provides us with the industry’s best automation platform for molecular diagnostics to support our BD GeneOhm platform. The flexibility of this novel platform will allow further expansion of the BD molecular diagnostic menu.”

The acquisition of HandyLab by BD also continues the trend of consolidation among in vitro diagnostics (IVD) companies. Because of scale and substantial resources, the billion-dollar IVD giants are in a position to buy promising molecular assays and testing systems, then support them with a substantial marketing program.

In fact, the GeneOhm assays that BD now runs on the BD Max/Jaguar auto- mated system were acquired by BD in just this fashion. It was January 2006, when BD announced an agreement to buy GeneOhm Sciences, Inc., of San Diego, California.

Thus, the BD Max, running GeneOhm assays, represents a molecular product line developed by two smaller, emerging biotech companies, each of which was then acquired by BD.

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