Life Technologies Buys Navigenics for Genetic Diagnostics

Life Technologies Corp., the maker of machines that decode human DNA, purchased closely held Navigenics Inc., bolstering its ability to provide gene diagnostics in a fast-growing market.

The acquisition was announced today in a statement from Carlsbad, California-based Life Technologies. Terms of the sale weren’t disclosed. Navigenics’s government-approved medical genetics laboratory and data systems will speed development of tests that help doctors prescribe cancer drugs, said Greg Lucier, Life’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Myriad Genetics Inc. and closely held Foundation Medicine Inc. inspect DNA to determine individuals’ risk of cancer or suggest how doctors can target tumor treatment. An insurance industry study released in March predicted the U.S. market for genetic testing will quintuple over the next decade. Life is planning more acquisitions to compete in the market, Lucier said.

“There’s more coming that will ride on top of this,” he said today in a telephone interview.

Navigenics, based in San Francisco, will add about 20 employees to Life, which has about 10,400 workers. Life makes the Personal Genome Machine and Ion Proton DNA sequencers.

Navigenics was established in 2006 to help patients and their doctors understand the health implications of variations in their genomes, the DNA code in each cell that determines how tissues and organs are constructed, said co-founder David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California.

Companion Diagnostics

Life will begin by using that software to provide services for cancer doctors who want to analyze patients’ tumors for points that might be vulnerable to treatment, he said.

Navigenics does genetic testing in a laboratory approved by the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments. Gaining the laboratory will help Life Technologies compete to develop cancer companion diagnostics, tests that can tell doctors when a specific tumor has a DNA mutation that can be targeted by a drug, said Ronnie Andrews, Life’s president of medical sciences.

“We want to expand our capability to work with pharmaceutical companies in this area,” Andrews said in a telephone interview. “This allows us to move more rapidly.”

Life Technologies rose 0.4 percent at the close in New York to $43.15. The shares have climbed 11 percent this year.

A March study by UnitedHealth Group Inc. predicted that annual U.S. spending on human genetic testing will increase to as much as $25 billion over the next decade, from about $5 billion in 2010.

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