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LIFE's Ion Suite Thrives on Tie-Ups

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Life Technologies Corporation (LIFE) has entered into several collaborations to expand the scope of sequencing. The latest in a line of alliances is with Boston Children's Hospital. The tie-up is meant to develop an end-to-end genetic sequencing lab workflow based on the company’s Ion Proton sequencer. This collaboration will facilitate treatment decisions for patients with complicated conditions.

The tie-up with Boston Children's Hospital comes on the heels of collaboration with the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Institute of Applied Genetics. Both parties would utilize the company's Ion Personal Genome Machine (“PGM”) system for implementation of best technologies in forensics DNA analyses. Training forensic analysts on the application of next generation sequencing will be a key output of the collaboration.

In another development, Life Technologies partnered with the Hospital for Sick Children to advance pediatric genomic research on the Ion Proton sequencer. Under the agreement, numerous clinical research samples will be mapped daily using the sequencing platform in the hospital's newly launched Centre for Genetic Medicine. The Ion Proton sequencer, which relies on semiconductor chips, is designed to sequence an entire human genome in a day for $1,000. This is much faster and less expensive than traditional next generation systems.

Life Technologies’ Genetic Analysis business received a strong boost from the Ion Torrent franchise. This franchise was inducted into the company’s portfolio with the acquisition of Ion Torrent, a DNA sequencing company, in October 2010. The company realized robust growth from its Ion PGM in the last few quarters. Launched in December 2010, shipment placements of the Ion PGM numbered 700 at the end of 2011.  

Maintaining the upbeat trend, sales of the PGM rose during the last reported quarter. The company is satisfied with the progress made so far with Ion Torrent technologies and expects the growth momentum to continue. This growth will be supported by more PGM placements and the scheduled launch of the Ion Proton Benchtop sequencer in the second half of 2012.

The sequencing market has become competitive with the presence of Illumina (ILMN). Moreover, another player, Qiagen (QGEN) is also entering the next generation sequencing market.

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

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