Big Diagnostics Companies See the Genomics Light
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.
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The diagnostics industry grew an estimated 7% from 2000 to 2001, to more than $20 million, with 8% projected for this year, according to Boston Biomedical Consultants. While in some industries, that figure might be considered lackluster, in diagnostics it is far better than the norm, especially considering that the growth was solid and broad, benefiting most top companies in many product categories.
Having already collaborated with Millennium Pharmaceuticals to find marker candidates for its molecular oncology program, BD is now tapping TriPath Imaging to help build an imaging system to analyze the markers. Its strategy of relying on partners means it has to give up some profits, but BD is confident that the results will yield a value high enough to make the program economically feasible. It's a model that other companies are likely to emulate as they move into molecular diagnostics.
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.