Judy O'Rourke

Judy O’Rourke

As I’m writing, it was reported that Hologic Inc, Bedford, Mass, plans to purchase Gen-Probe, San Diego, for about $3.7 billion in cash.

The Wall Street Journal had previously reported Hologic’s interest in expanding its diagnostics business, so the fact they made an acquisition is no surprise. The deal, however, fortifies Hologic’s portfolio of women’s health testing products with the addition of Gen-Probe’s diagnostics for STDs, including those for chlamydia and gonorrhea, HPV, and trichomonas.

Big health care companies are hedging their bets and boosting the bottom line through acquisition because organic growth through R&D is expensive and risky. By choosing to acquire companies and products with a proven track record, they ensure growth and profitability for their stockholders.

The Hologic deal follows other recent acquisitions with similar aims: Thermo Fisher’s purchase last year of Phadia AB for $3.5 billion (the new entity is called Thermo Fisher Scientific ImmunoDiagnostics business) and Danaher Corp’s purchase of Beckman Coulter Inc for $5.8 billion.

This move complements Hologic’s earlier purchases of Cytyc (about 5 years ago), with its cervical cancer cellular-based pap test, and Third Wave (about 4 years ago), with HPV testing technology.

As the pharma and diagnostic communities embrace the merit in collaborating, the resulting “whole” often becomes more than just the sum of its parts. With personalized medicine slowly gaining traction as a valued option for providing targeted care for patients, companion diagnostics is getting a bump too.

Companion diagnostics may be the center of this perfect storm. Ventana Medical Systems Inc is collaborating with several developers for recent companion diagnostic tests—Pfizer: Ventana has announced a test related to the ALK gene for non-small-cell lung cancer; Bayer: Ventana announced an assay but has not revealed the name of the biomarker or the name of the drug; Syndax: Ventana’s working in non-small-cell lung cancer, and the diagnostic is supporting Syndax’s drug Entinostat.

The lab industry is more than just a passive recipient of all of this new technology. Among other things, lab administrators and industry organizations will have the opportunity to lead the way to assure best practices for QC of personalized medicine and companion diagnostics tests are employed.

Look for more collaborations and acquisitions as more companion diagnostics and well-validated biomarkers transition from the research lab into the clinical lab.

Judy O’Rourke
Editor, CLP
, (619) 659-1065