BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Eurofins Scientific, a French biotechnology company specialized in the detection of living organisms in foodstuffs, signed a contract for the acquisition of 51 percent of the Danish company Milijoe Kemi, as well as an agreement in principle for the acquisition of the Dutch company Analytico.

Milijoe Kemi's business is the detection of toxins in air, water and soil and the analysis of biological and agricultural samples. It operates 10 laboratories in Denmark, Norway and Germany and had a turnover of EUR15 million (US$13.9 million) in 1999-2000.

Analytico also is engaged in microbiological analysis and runs two large laboratories that generate revenues of some EUR20 million (US$18.6 million) a year. Eurofins Scientific pointed out that its takeover of the company is subject to the results of an acquisition audit, the conclusion of firm contracts and the "other normal conditions for this type of transaction in the Netherlands." Last December, Eurofins acquired a 70 percent stake in the German company DFA, the European leader in dioxin detection and analysis.

Based in the western French city of Nantes, Eurofins Scientific has developed proprietary methods for verifying the botanical and biological integrity of foodstuffs and beverages. It has been highly solicited recently for conducting tests to detect the presence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in beef. To respond to the sudden upsurge in demand in Germany in particular, it is setting up five new laboratories in that country, having already expanded the capacity of its existing facility at Garchning, near Munich.

Following the discovery of BSE-infected cattle in Germany for the first time late last year, the BSE screening activity of Eurofins' Garchning laboratory soared from 50 tests a week in September to 2,000 a week in mid-December, and according to the company's CEO, Gilles Martin, there is latent demand for some 10,000 tests a week. The company opened a second laboratory in Frankfurt shortly before Christmas, and by the end of March will have established four others in Hamburg, Nuremberg, Munster and Berlin.

In addition to its food testing activities, Eurofins Scientific operates two molecular biology laboratories, one in Nantes and the other in Hamburg, that are specialized in the genetic applications of its technology, such as the detection of genetically modified organisms in botanical or biological materials.