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Beckman Coulter pens molecular diagnostics alliance

By Mike Nagle , 22-Jan-2008

Beckman Coulter has launched a four-year collaboration with Irish University NUI Galway in the hope of speeding up molecular diagnostic tests.

Although Californian-based Beckman Coulter already has a manufacturing facility in Galway, this will be the firm's first research collaboration in Ireland. A research team of 10 Masters and PhD researchers based at the university will be created to build on Intellectual Property already developed there.


Molecular diagnostics aims to provide faster and more sensitive alternatives to traditional microbiology tests and immunoassays by detecting molecules of DNA from bacteria, viruses and cancer cells in patient samples. The field is thought to be potentially worth $2bn annually.


"Our goal is that our simplified, automated solution will allow these time-consuming, complex, and labour-intensive tests to migrate into the routine hospital lab. So physicians will get diagnostic information within hours, instead of days or weeks, and be able to begin treating patients much sooner," said Mike Whelan, group vice president of Beckman Coulter's High Sensitivity Testing group.


The Irish Government helped set up the agreement and is hoping that it could lead to further investment from Beckman in the area.


"It is anticipated that success in this project potentially could lead to future manufacture of the company's Molecular Diagnostic assays in Galway," said Minister Martin.


The Beckman facility in Ireland makes a variety of chemistry, haematology and immunoassay reagent products that can be used in conjunction with he firm's diagnostic products. It is the largest of the firm's four similar manufacturing facilities across Europe.


"The agreements give us access to intellectual property for the development of tests for infectious diseases including sepsis; hospital-acquired infections; and sexually transmitted diseases, such as Chlamydia and Neisseria," said Whelan.


The University's National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) and the Microbiology Department will lead the initiative.


"This is a very significant research collaboration for both NUI Galway and Beckman Coulter, in that it leverages the combined diagnostics test and instrumentation capabilities of both partners resulting in the development of break-through technologies for the diagnosis of infectious diseases in humans," said Professor Terry Smith, director of the NCBES.


This is not the first time NUI Galway has penned a deal with industry. In 2004, it launched a programme specifically aimed towards increasing the number of this type of agreement. Roche Ireland became the first member of the programme when, in the same year, it signed a five-year commitment to support the NCBES.

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