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May 2010
by Amy Swinderman  |  Email the author
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WALTHAM, Mass.—Viewing its diagnostic services business—which has continued to produce double-digit yearly growth in recent years—as a viable unit for expansion, PerkinElmer Inc. has acquired Signature Genomic Laboratories LLC, a diagnostic genetic testing company based in Spokane, Wash.

The deal, announced in mid-April, is intended to strengthen PerkinElmer's existing genetic service testing business, which is heavily concentrated on prenatal and neonatal screening systems as well as clinical diagnostic systems, instruments and accessories and software.

According to Jim Corbett, president of ViaCord, a cord blood banking and research arm of PerkinElmer, and also head of genetic screening for PerkinElmer in North America, the acquisition also aims to expand the company's position in early disease detection—specifically in the molecular diagnostics market—and provide the company with additional strengths in cancer diagnostics.

"We look forward to expanding our molecular diagnostics capabilities and services, and expect the acquisition to enable us to take our technologies to the rest of the world, potentially offering a product model," Corbett says. "We also see cancer diagnostics as an adjacent market for us to move into. The first line of products we develop will be for hematological cancers. We have targeted nine different types to which we will apply microarray technology. We 're also looking at solid tumor opportunities."

Founded in 2003, Signature Genomics is well known as the first laboratory to provide microarray-based cytogenetic diagnostics, but had humble beginnings. The company opened its doors with just three employees, and after starting to offer testing in March 2004, made a profit by August of that year. After an infusion of cash from stakeholders Ampersand Ventures and jVen Capital, Signature was able to grow to more than 100 employees and has made more than 8,000 diagnoses after processing 40,000-plus cases since its inception.

Signature Genomics' bread and butter comes from its proprietary SignatureChip technology, which is an oligonucleotide-based microarray specifically designed, developed and validated by cytogeneticists exclusively for clinical applications. According to Signature Genomics, the 135,000 oligonucleotides on the SignatureChip cover every region known to be involved in cytogenetic abnormalities, including over 200 syndromes, the pericentromeric regions, and subtelomeres, with a maximum probe spacing of one probe every 35 kb throughout the genome and one probe every 10 kb in clinical regions.

Signature's microarray diagnostic technology is available for both prenatal and postnatal identification of DNA alterations associated with genetic disease. More recently, Signature launched a suite of services for the diagnosis of patients with leukemia.

Companies who do business in this fast-growing segment have come to recognize the face of Signature Genomics, Dr. Lisa G. Shaffer, as a leader in the field of genetic testing. A co-founder of Signature Genomics along with colleague Dr. Bassem A. Bejjani, Shaffer was named a national finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2009 Award in Health Sciences.

"Lisa Shaffer is very well-known in the industry, as hers was the first service lab to take the microarray technology traditionally used in research and bring it to clinical use for the identification of developmental disorders in children," Corbett says. "She has taken that expertise and now has an offering in the prenatal space, but is looking to enter the oncology space as well. She has an experienced staff that is well regarded in the research community."

Signature Genomics did not respond to an interview request by press time. Shaffer said in a statement, "As a global leader in genetic screening technologies and services, PerkinElmer clearly has the resources and worldwide presence to enable our combined testing services to reach more patients and families. We believe that this move will not only benefit patient populations around the world, but help us continue our success in genetic diagnostic innovation."

Financial terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close in May and is subject to customary closing conditions, were not disclosed. Corbett says Signature Genomics will retain its Spokane facility, which houses 120 employees who will become part of PerkinElmer's genetic screening group.
 
 
Code: E051012

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