With an expanding market for products to fight bioterrorism, Invitrogen Corp. formed a new wholly owned subsidiary called Biological Defense Systems Inc. (BDS) to focus on research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and detection technologies.

The venture, to be located in Frederick, Md., will consolidate the company's biosecurity applications.

"The actual nuts and bolts of why we did this is we find that with a subsidiary, it is easier to work with the government, and it's easier to manage the business with respect to some of the security concerns," said James Gilmore, director at BDS.

BDS will keep a close eye on laboratory work due to the delicate nature of bioterrorism. Carlsbad, Calif.-based Invitrogen will fully fund the subsidiary's operations.

Invitrogen provides technologies for disease research, drug discovery and commercial bio-production to the government, academic research institutions and companies. The new unit will focus on advancing vaccines and therapeutics that came out of Invitrogen's February 2004 acquisition of BioReliance Corp., of Rockville, Md., and its February 2003 acquisition of PanVera LLC, a subsidiary of Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. And it will work on two technologies for the detection market: PathAlert, which addresses Class A pathogens such as anthrax, plague and smallpox; and Lux, a real-time detector applicable not only to Class A pathogens, but also Class B and Class C pathogens, which are water- and food-borne.

BDS also will invest its efforts in a third area - research. It will delve into the discovery of new pathogens and learn more about diseases that emerge unexpectedly, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and the West Nile virus.

"Some of these organisms were only sequenced a few months ago, so actually not that much is know about them," Gilmore told BioWorld Today. "There's a need for basic research tools to understand the biology of the organisms."

As part of establishing the new subsidiary, Invitrogen is creating a board of directors for BDS and bringing in James Meegan to head the research team as senior director of biodefense. Meegan spent the last 13 years with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where he developed initial programs for biodefense. At BDS, he will work on solving current technology limitations for organizations working in biodefense, including accelerating production of improved vaccines, diagnostic tests and therapies.

"While we have researchers in this field, we're looking to gain experts, and part of that has been to bring on Dr. Meegan, who has pretty extensive experience," Gilmore said.

Invitrogen has been involved in pathogen research for quite some time, at least since the late 1990s, Gilmore said. Company officials plan on assisting the government by quickly commercializing any viable ideas presented to them.

BDS already has formed partnerships with biodefense researchers and plans to announce those in the future. Invitrogen believes its new subsidiary will offer partners a well-rounded approach to biodefense, from understanding the biology of pathogens to detecting outbreaks.

"If you take a look at the market right now, it's really fragmented - the players are fragmented and the solutions are fragmented," Gilmore said. "What Invitrogen brings is a more stable leader to the field, but we also can work across the technologies and really come up with integrated solutions."

Invitrogen's stock (NASDAQ:IVGN) rose 61 cents on Tuesday, to close at $66.99.

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