Vital Signs The Analyst's Perspective - September 2015 Issue
The BD Life Sciences division of NJ-based Becton Dickinson announced its acquisition of CA-based singlecell
genomics startup Cellular Research, Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 2011, Cellular Research
developed a proprietary Molecular Indexing technology for identifying and counting distinct DNA molecules.
Its current offerings include the Pixel System– a detection platform for direct mRNA quantitation from single
cells, Precise assays for RNA-seq, and Precise predefined gene expression panels. The two companies already
had a co-marketing agreement in place for BD’s FACS single-cell sorting instrument and Cellular Research’s
Pixel System combined for the application of single-cell sequencing.
The Analyst’s Perspective by Christi Bird, Senior Industry Analyst, Life Sciences
Recognizing the growth potential in single-cell genomics and next-generation sequencing (NGS), BD has been slowly building up its portfolio in the space. In October 2014, the company acquired GenCell Biosystems primarily for its automated NGS library preparation solution. The library prep portion of the NGS market is still evolving and no single competitor has yet to dominate the space. The acquisition was a smart, but conservative step into the multi-billion dollar NGS universe. However, NGS technology leader Illumina launched its own automated library prep instrument, the NeoPrep, which competes directly with the GenCell derived CLiC LP. Given Illumina’s NGS presence and the industry’s widespread awareness of its market dominance in the sequencer space, BD will need to differentiate and raise awareness of the CLiC LP to gain traction in the library prep niche.
Fast forward to the recent acquisition of Cellular Research and we see BD more in its comfort zone. As a leader in the flow cytometry space, BD has the expertise and brand name for cell analysis. The next logical step was to move into the emerging and quickly-growing single-cell genomics space. BD likely has the expertise in-house to have developed a single-cell analysis platform, but given the Stanford-based team behind Cellular Research, which includes Fluidigm co-founder Stephen Quake, BD should gain a high quality market-ready product in the Pixel System. BD aims to combine the platform with its cell sorting and flow cytometry portfolios to offer the research community a complete workflow for gene expression analysis in single cells. BD will compete with the likes of Fluidigm, NanoString, and Thermo Fisher Scientific in this market. Where the company gains an advantage from the start is its leading position in the flow cytometry market. Given the challenge of competing with Illumina in all things sequencing, BD is playing to its strengths in targeting the single-cell genomics space, but still has a ways to go in positioning its solutions towards NGS users.
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