Amnis Rolls Out Souped Up Scientific Tool, Just as Customers Start Feeling Flush

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of sales leads that runs 4,700 names deep, Basiji says. By coming out with the higher-speed, lower cost version, many people with some basic familiarity with Amnis “are definitely giving us a second look,” Basiji says.

Amnis has signed up customers from some big-name institutions, like the National Institutes of Health, the Pasteur Institute in France, the University of Heidelberg, as well as major drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, and Amgen.

I pressed Basiji on what kinds of experiments the new product enables biologists to do that they otherwise can’t. One thing the Amnis tool can do is detect tiny numbers of cells, or slight variations in cells, that would otherwise go unnoticed in a sample, at a rate of 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 10,000, Basiji says. For certain kinds of leukemia, for example, existing tools that aren’t this sensitive can often erroneously declare a patient to be cancer-free. Researchers who can spot these trace amounts of cancer in a blood sample can use that information to persist with a chemotherapy regimen until it’s really finished the job. Or, even better, they can catch cancer at its earliest, and most treatable stage.

How this translates into improved revenue and profits for Amnis is still a bit unclear. Amnis has had intermittently profitable quarters, although it expects 2009 will be its first full year of running in the black, Basiji says. The NIH stimulus money isn’t expected to start flowing to academic labs until September or October, and Amnis is still just shipping a beta version of ImageStreamX, so a lot will depend on how good the early customer reviews are.

But the feedback from customers so far has been encouraging, Basiji says. This new tool can analyze eight to 10 markers on cells at once, take images to show where those markers are on the cell, and process 1,000 cells a second. This is fast enough to keep up with the standard flow cytometers. That’s critically important to customers, Basiji says. Nobody bought the original product to replace a standard flow cytometer, but now the company is hearing feedback from customers saying they are considering that, he says.

“It’s really a turning point for us this year,” Basiji says. “There’s never been a better time to sell a more compelling, lower-priced product than in today’s market.”

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