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QIAGEN Acquires Comprehensive Portfolio of Molecular Food Safety Tests


QIAGEN announced that it has entered into an agreement with the Institute for Product Quality (ifp), pursuant to which QIAGEN has acquired all rights to 70 molecular food safety tests developed by the Berlin-based specialized laboratory center for food analysis. The transaction further strengthens QIAGEN's "Applied Testing" business segment, which also encompasses molecular testing systems for forensic applications, veterinary medicine and biodefense. No financial details were disclosed.

The tests acquired from ifp are based on the widely used real-time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technology and cover a broad range of molecular targets including genetic, bacterial, viral and other contaminants of foodstuffs. The tests can be fully automated using QIAGEN's own instruments such as the QIAsymphony and the Rotor-Gene Q. The transaction enables QIAGEN to offer complete solutions for all major applications in the food safety testing segment, covering entire workflows from the processing of primary samples to the final testing result.

"With this unique assay portfolio we are laying the foundation for a very strong position in the area of food safety testing and significantly strengthening the area of applied testing overall", said Peer Schatz, Chief Executive Officer of QIAGEN. "Applied testing represents an important growth area for our company. Here, we are focusing on select segments with a relevant market volume, a growing demand for molecular testing technologies and a high potential for growth. We believe that the food testing segment matches this profile and we look forward to continuously expanding our position in this market."

Applied testing currently accounts for 7% of the company's net sales, yet it is one of the most dynamic market segments for QIAGEN, with a revenue growth of 28% at constant exchange rates in the past quarter alone. Currently, QIAGEN's sales in applied testing predominantly go to customers in forensics, veterinary medicine and biodefense. Food safety testing is a steadily growing segment with an overall market volume of more than US$ 2 billion. The market breaks down into four application groups: detection of pathogens, quality controls (such as testing for components subjected to illicit genetic modification), detection of allergens and identification of animal species. The increasing demand for food safety testing is being driven by evolving consumer awareness, more stringent legal requirements and the growing needs of food manufacturers who find themselves confronted with ever more complex sample base materials, as well as new pathogens that are increasingly difficult to detect.

Molecular tests, and in particular real-time PCR-based assays, are gaining more widespread use in such applications as they are significantly faster and more reliable than traditional methods and also allow for the detection of genetic targets. With their help, for instance, food producers can obtain certainty as to the safety of their planned deliveries within less than 24 hours.

"The safety of our products is top priority for us," explains Andreas-Michael Peter, Director, Quality Management at food manufacturer Zentis in Aachen, Germany. "PCR methods are playing an ever more important role for us within the context of our quality controls, as they offer a maximum in reliability and speed in detection and documentation".

The share of PCR-based methods in the food safety area is approx. 15 - 20% of the overall market. Prior to adding a commercial test menu, QIAGEN addressed this segment with technologies for sample processing and reagents required for the development of customized "homebrew" tests. Molecular food safety testing using PCR technology is presently still more widespread in the USA than in Europe and Asia; in individual segments, it is meanwhile regarded as the gold standard. An example for its growing importance is the cooperation between QIAGEN and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The program started in late 2008 and is aimed at developing molecular detection methods for pathogens in foodstuffs for the Chinese and international markets. Experts believe that such tests can set new standards in safety and protection of consumers.

ifp will continue producing all existing and future tests as an independent entity in Berlin, Germany. The first test kits are expected to be available through QIAGEN in the 4th quarter, 2010. QIAGEN therefore expects a negative contribution by the transaction to the adjusted earnings per share for 2010 of approx. US$ 0.01. The company is assuming positive profit contributions for the subsequent years. Until 2012 the company plans to expand the portfolio to the full number of 70 tests.

Source: QIAGEN GmbH