Qiagen Buys Molecular Staging: Stalking PCR
Although scientific and clinical interest in molecular diagnostics is at an all-time high, companies are still struggling to find the right business model for the field. Qiagen's recent acquisition of the assets of Molecular Staging, one of the sector's pioneers, reflects the promise and limitations of a field in which competition is fierce, development time is lengthy, and technology is evolving much faster than general market acceptance.
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The late 1990s genomics implosion spurred many genomics tools companies focusing on research laboratories to re-direct their attention to the clinic. The expectation was that innovative diagnostic tests and analytic platforms could do for them what collapsing research markets couldn't. Among those hit hard was Third Wave Technologies Inc., which was forced to re-evaluate its priorities and step up the pace of its commercialization timetable, while reducing emphasis on research. TWT's struggles are similar to those of other genomics companies facing the same tough environment, but its story is also universally applicable to medical device startups, which start with a strong scientific orientation and, often painfully, need to make business their major priority.
Founded in November 1996, Molecular Staging is developing diagnostic technologies licensed from the Yale University School of Medicine.
Qiagen's success in exploiting an overlooked niche in research diagnostics--sample prep for nucleic acid tests--has driven an extraordinary growth story. But its performance has attracted the attention of big diagnostics companies. As it looks to expand into clinical markets, it faces levels of competition it's never seen before.