Beckman Coulter's Play for High Growth
With the Coulter integration successful, Beckman Coulter looks for high-growth opportunities outside of its traditional businesses. Beckman, through internal efforts in its life sciences business and a series of small alliances, is making a play in genomics and proteomics. In addition to building up near-term revenues, the aim is to find new "content" in the form of assays for its clinical business.
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Life sciences and clinical diagnostics seem to have a lot in common, but their customer needs, margins and product life cycles differ significantly. Beckman Coulter, one of the few large diagnostics companies with significant life science commitments, argues vociferously in favor of the strategic value of leveraging both businesses, despite many difficulties. Its MHC tetramer program is a prime example of its strategy.
Abbott's prolonged problems with the FDA in the immunoassaay diagnostics market obviously created opportunities for competitors. Critics say, however, their response has been slow and none are able to step directly into Abbott's shoes. Companies initially viewed the situation as a short-term opportunity, but now they may become more aggressive as Abbott's grip on the market weakens.
Until now, large diagnostics companies have been slow to get involved in the industry's biggest paradigm shift in a decade: the move to molecular markers that will help make diagnostics part of the treatment process. At this year's AACC, the small companies leading the way in this field were beginning to make their presence felt. And the big companies, J&J, Roche, Abbott, Beckman, were starting to talk about their own programs in the field. But they're moving slowly in a fast-moving field, and thus are vulnerable to new competitors.