Life Expands AmpliSeq Portfolio


Life Technologies (LIFE) continued its expansion of the Ion AmpliSeq portfolio with the recent launch of Comprehensive Cancer and Inherited Disease Panels. The company expects this new set of Ion AmpliSeq technology to help researchers to study samples by delivering more rapid and comprehensive sequencing of Gene Mutations.

Combined with the Ion AmpliSeq Designer V1.2, Ion AmpliSeq Library Kit 2.0 and the company’s latest Ion Reporter Software, the new panels provide an in-depth solution for the research of genetic basis of human diseases.

Earlier in March 2012, Life Technologies expanded its AmpliSeq offerings with the launch of Ion AmpliSeq Custom Panels and the accessibility of the Ion AmpliSeq Designer that has target design rates and coverage uniformity up to 98%. Since then, over 1,000 custom designs have been submitted to the researchers globally.

In October last year, Life Technologies launched the Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Panel to help scientists sequence dozens of genes in cancer research samples using a simple workflow. In addition to confirmation of mutations within one day, the system also makes DNA extraction possible from fixed, frozen or fresh tissue. The Cancer Panel sequences 46 cancer-related genes for over 700 known cancer mutations.

The Ion franchise was inducted into Life Technologies’ portfolio with the acquisition of Ion Torrent, a DNA sequencing company, in October 2010. For the past few quarters, the company has been recording robust growth from its Ion personal genome machine (“PGM”) that was launched in December 2010, thereby taking the total number of system placements to 700 in 2011.

Life Technologies is satisfied with the progress achieved so far with Ion Torrent technologies and expects the growth momentum to continue. This will be supported by more PGM placements and the scheduled launch of the Ion Proton Benchtop sequencer.

The company is already taking orders for Proton Benchtop, which is expected to hit the US market in mid-2012. Based on next-generation semiconductor technology, the device will be able to sequence the entire human genome in one day for $1,000.

Genome sequencing, which is currently in vogue, uses optical based technologies that may take weeks to deliver results and is also dearer at $5,000−$10,000. In addition, the high cost of the instrument ($500,000−$750,000) has been a deterrent to its expansion in research labs. Over the recent past, focus has been on reducing the cost of sequencing a gene so that this specialized know-how can benefit the patient community at large.

The DNA sequencing market is likely to get more competitive as San Diego-based Illumina (ILMN) is also looking at launching its HiSeq 2500 in the second half of 2012.

We have a Neutral recommendation on Life Technologies. The stock retains a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold) in the short term.

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