Life Technologies / Ion Torrent Deal Heats Up Competition in Low-Cost Sequencing

Aug.22.10 | About: Thermo Fisher (TMO)

By Michael Fitzhugh

Life Technologies (NASDAQ:LIFE) will pay more than $375 million for the DNA sequencing upstart Ion Torrent, adding new fuel to the ever-heady race to become the life science industry's dominant supplier of low-cost, next-generation sequencers.

Ion's innovative DNA sequencing technology, the acquisition's main win, casts aside many of the most expensive components used by other modern sequencers in favor of cheaper semiconductor technology.

“We believe Ion Torrent’s technology will represent a profound change for the life sciences industry,” says Life Technologies CEO, Gregory Lucier.

“By leveraging the cumulative $1 trillion already invested in semiconductor research and development, we believe that Ion Torrent will drive unprecedented scalability, delivering the solution required for future generations of sequencing,” says Lucier.

Ion's first sequencing system, the sub-$100,000 Personal Genome Machine, targets mid-scale sequencing projects and will supplement the lineup of more expensive laser-and-optics driven sequencers which Life Technologies already sells under the Applied Biosystems brand.

In addition to the $375 million in cash and stock the company will initially pay for Ion, it may also deliver up to an additional $350 million should the company achieve a series of technical and time-based milestones through 2012. Life Technologies is financing the transaction with cash on hand, available lines of credit, and stock.

The acquisition makes Jonathan Rothberg, Ion's founder, a multiple winner in the buyout sweepstakes. After founding 454 Life Sciences in 2000, he sold it to Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) in 2007. Rothberg will continue to lead Ion, and the company will retain its Guilford, Connecticut and South San Francisco offices, according to Life Technologies.

The blockbuster summer of genomics takes its next dramatic turns soon. Both Mountain View, California-based Complete Genomics (NASDAQ:GNOM) and Menlo Park, California's Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ:PACB) stand on deck for filed-and-ready initial public offerings.