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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / BIOTECH

Beckman Making Speedier Testing Products

February 08, 2001|MARC BALLON | Marc Ballon covers the biomedical and biotechnology industries for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7439 and at marc.ballon@latimes.com

Beckman Coulter Inc. in Fullerton said it is developing a potentially lucrative line of testing products that could hasten the development of new drugs and vaccines.

The products known as iTAg MHC tetramers, can detect levels of disease-fighting T-cells within an hour, while current procedures can take up to two weeks. By measuring cellular immune response, it is possible to help researchers and pharmaceutical companies evaluate the effectiveness of medical products aimed at boosting the immune system, said Bonnie Anderson, vice president of Beckman's tetramer business.

Beckman has just rolled out three tetramer products that can be used for HIV and melanoma skin cancer research. The company is working on tetramers for other cancers as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Tetramers could add $100 million to Beckman's sales over the next five years, said Bruce Cranna, senior analyst at ABN AMRO in Boston. The company reported sales of nearly $1.9 billion last year.

Beckman has established a separate San Diego facility to research tetramers. Work is also being done in Miami and Marseilles, France.

The company has exclusive rights to the tetramer technology through a licensing agreement with Stanford University, where two researchers first developed the product.

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