The Department of Commerce is investigating whether a Britishcompany sold gene amplification thermal cycling instrumentsin the United States at less than a fair market price, agencyofficials confirmed last week.

The six-month "anti-dumping" probe, based on allegations byMJ Research Inc. of Watertown, Mass., against LEP ScientificLtd. of Milton Keynes, U.K., opens another front in themarketing battle over gene amplification technologies. Themost common use for the companies' thermal cyclers is toautomate the heating and cooling steps necessary to performthe polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A finding of dumping canlead to the imposition of a duty on imports or fines.

A joint venture between Cetus Corp. and Perkin-Elmer Corp. ofNorwalk, Conn., has the largest market share for thermalcycling equipment. The venture, named Perkin-Elmer Cetus,also sells PCR enzymes and reagents.

Du Pont, which supplies a PCR kit and is legally challengingCetus' PCR patents, is rumored to have been looking for athermal cycler manufacturer to better compete with Perkin-Elmer Cetus in both reagents and machines. MJ ResearchPresident John Finney declined to comment on whether hiscompany has been in negotiations with Du Pont.

The International Trade Commission issued a preliminaryruling on Dec. 27 that LEP Scientific's imports presented"material injury" to the U.S. thermal cycler market. The ITC isscheduled to issue a final ruling in August after reviewing thecommerce department's findings. -- Carol Ezzell

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