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Sigma Aldrich Bows out of Diagnostics

Executive Summary

Sigma Aldrich's decision to abruptly exit the clinical diagnostics business is a cautionary tale for both large companies seeking to enter diagnostics and for small companies looking for deep-pocketed saviors. In April, after selling a small immunoassay business to Ivax Diagnostics, Sigma laid off nearly all of its diagnostics division's 600 employees, effectively all but shutting down the business. Under pressure from Wall Street, it decided to cut its losses rather than sell an on-going concern.

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Abbott Laboratories' acquisition of i-Stat for $392 million reflects the promise and limitations of point-of-care diagnostics. A decade ago, i-Stat was a giddy startup, on a mission to revolutionize laboratory medicine with a handheld diagnostics system that could run basic blood tests rapidly at the patients' bedside. While it has accomplished much, it is far from creating a revolution. Meanwhile, the timing of the deal comes as Abbott emerges from a four-year nightmare with the FDA in which the FDA forced it to pull many of its important immunoassay tests off the market.

A Sobered Abbott Buys i-Stat

Abbott Laboratories' acquisition of i-Stat for $392 million reflects the promise and limitations of point-of-care diagnostics. A decade ago, i-Stat was a giddy startup, on a mission to revolutionize laboratory medicine with a handheld diagnostics system that could run basic blood tests rapidly at the patients' bedside. While it has accomplished much, it is far from creating a revolution. Meanwhile, the timing of the deal comes as Abbott emerges from a four-year nightmare with the FDA in which the FDA forced it to pull many of its important immunoassay tests off the market.

BioSite's Play for High-Value Diagnostics

Biosite, a small point-of-care diagnostics company, has figured out a way to pay for access to genetic markers that could be the basis of important new diagnostics tests, without laying out big bucks. It is offering to provide genomics companies with antibodies developed using its proprietary methodology, which allows it to make high-affinity antibodies much faster than any other supplier. Partners, genomics or pharmaceutical companies, pay for the cost of the antibodies and give Biosite exclusive rights to any genetic markers they develop that may have diagnostic applications. Already Biosite has one alliance with Scios Inc., a genomics company working in the area of cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

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