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Some trick pony
November 2011
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


HERCULES, Calif.—Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., a venerable manufacturer and distributor of life-science research and clinical diagnostics products, has acquired QuantaLife Inc. for $162 million in cash plus potential future milestone payments.
In a frank assessment of the dominant reason for Bio- Rad's purchase decision, company president and CEO Norman Schwartz says, "We are impressed with QuantaLife's digital PCR technology and believe it will complement Bio-Rad's existing amplification business. This elegant solution expands the current state-of-the-art methods of quantitative PCR (qPCR), and we look forward to its adoption in life-science research."  
Based in nearby Pleasanton, Calif., QuantaLife was a privately held life sciences company until the Bio-Rad purchase. It recently commercialized the Droplet Digital (ddPCR) system, which the company claims is the most accurate genetic analysis platform available today. The system provides researchers with a new tool for the detection of rare mutations including distinguishing rare sequences in tumors, precise measurement of copy number variation and absolute quantification of gene expression.   
"The system is the first cost-effective, high-resolution platform available for the validation of next-generation sequencing discoveries. It is easy to use, easy to automate and easy to integrate into existing workflows in both life science and clinical research labs. With the ddPCR system, researchers can explore complex genetic landscapes in high-definition, discover new disease associations and define a new category of improved molecular 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 American Frost & Sullivan Award for New Product Innovation for its ddPCR System.  
"The QuantaLife ddPCR system introduces the next generation of PCR by providing absolute quantification of nucleic acid molecules, a capability that could play a significant role in the development of companion diagnostics and the emergence of personalized medicine–a role that has long been held by real-time PCR (qPCR)," noted Frost & Sullivan in granting the award.  
"By allowing for detection of nucleic acids at higher resolution and lower target levels, Droplet Digital PCR has the ability to identify diseases earlier in progression, providing a major advantage for diagnostics and preventative medicine," says Dr. Bill Colson, founder and CEO of QuantaLife.  
"Essentially, this new technology provides even more precise measurements than the gold-standard qPCR methods," says Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Christi Bird. "The unmatched resolution allows detection of target molecules at extremely low levels, which has major implications for not only precise life science research applications, but also early diagnosis of disease and development of accurate companion diagnostics for personalized healthcare."  
QuantaLife's system consists of two instruments, the droplet generator and the droplet reader. The droplet generator divides each sample into 20,000 one-nanoliter droplets. The samples are transferred onto plates and moved to a standard thermal cycler where the targeted DNA/RNA molecules are amplified using readily available qPCR assays. The amplified samples are then returned to QuantaLife's Droplet Reader where the droplets are streamed single-file past a two-color fluorescence detector that reads each droplet as either positive or negative for the target DNA/RNA molecules. The system software then determines the concentration of the selected target in the original sample and provides absolute quantification in digital form.  
The ddPCR technology provides several advantages over traditional real-time PCR. In particular, the system can better detect the difference between samples with similar genomic structures, a major advantage in determining copy number variation. This precise technology can also identify a ±10 percent difference in gene expression between samples. The instrument can also detect a rare difference against a similar and common background.  
"This advantage allows extremely sensitive detection of rare mutations when real-time PCR fails at certain concentration due to competitive amplification 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 worldwide through its global network of operations. The company employs over 6,800 people and had revenues exceeding $1.9 billion in 2010.

Code: E111104



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