BioTrove Seeks Big Trove in IPO

Xconomy Boston — 

Just when you thought it wasn’t safe to go back in the water, BioTrove, a Woburn, MA-based maker of tools for life sciences research, braved the choppy IPO seas today in search of a trove of up to $75 million. (And yes, I realize there’s a strangely high incidence of the word “trove” on the site today.)

Founded as an MIT spinoff in 2000 and backed by the likes of Catalyst Health and Technology Partners, CB Health Ventures, Zero Stage Capital, Echelon Ventures, and Fletcher Spaght, BioTrove currently markets two different systems: OpenArray for genomic analysis and RapidFire for high-throughput screening for drug discovery. According to BioTrove’s filing with the SEC, the two technologies address annual markets of $4.9 billion and $2.9 billion, respectively.

Of course, BioTrove has a ways to sail before it can claim a sizeable share of that booty. The company’s 2007 revenues totaled just $4.8 million, and the firm’s net loss for the year was almost $16 million. It’s early days, though. The company launched OpenArray in 2005, and has since amassed a customer base for the system that includes 38 companies, academic researchers, hospitals, and government labs. Users of RapidFire, which BioTrove launched as a service in 2004 before releasing it in product form in 2006, include 20 biopharmaceutical companies—among them 11 of the 15 largest such firms, according to BioTrove.

The Woburn company, whose full-time staff numbers just 70 people, will have help in its efforts to expand the reach of its technologies. The firm has struck sales and marketing agreements with Applied Biosystems (focusing on the OpenArray line) and with Agilent Technologies (focusing on the RapidFire system).