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Oxford Immunotec Draws on PerkinElmer Capabilities to Automate Latent TB Test


NEW YORK – Since its acquisition by PerkinElmer earlier this year, Oxford Immunotec has been leveraging the capabilities of its parent company to accelerate the development and reduce the costs of its technologies, according to company executives.

Since the acquisition was first announced in January, Waltham, Massachusetts-based PerkinElmer has been largely mum on Oxford Immunotec. During a conference call on Tuesday to discuss the company's third quarter financial results, however, PerkinElmer CEO Prahlad Singh and Oxford Immunotec founder and CEO Peter Wrighton-Smith provided a progress report, noting the continued build-out of its latent tuberculosis testing business and work on its incipient T-cell testing initiatives.

Based on Oxford Immunotec's T-Spot interferon-gamma release assay technology, the latent TB test was the firm's flagship product before its acquisition, and on the call Singh said that the Oxford, UK-based firm is currently second in the latent TB testing space, presumably behind Qiagen.

"With some of our core capabilities and broader regulatory, distribution, and service offerings, the business is well positioned to gain share in the years ahead," Singh said, adding Oxford Immunotec "is now beginning to transition from being a developer and manufacturer of diagnostic kits to now offering customers fully automated workflows for TB testing."

Oxford Immunotec, Singh noted, is on track to exceed its revenue targets for 2021.

Wrighton-Smith said that Oxford Immunotec's strategy to grow its latent TB testing business is three-pronged. First, it wants to expand its commercial presence by entering new and existing geographic markets. Additionally, the company aims to "dramatically" improve its workflow by automating its assay and rolling out the new automated workflow globally and in different throughputs. Lastly, it is working to reduce costs to its customers by "capturing more value from the product and service ecosystem created by automation."

Qiagen has at least a two-year head start on Oxford Immunotec in terms of an automated IGRA assay for latent TB, having received US Food and Drug Administration approval for an assay workflow developed in partnership with DiaSorin.

Beyond latent TB, Oxford Immunotec has been developing a test to measure T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2. Wrighton-Smith said that the company has successfully deployed the technology, and testing service revenues associated with the T-cell technology are growing in support of studies testing the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and in support of vaccination decisions being made by the UK government.

Demand for its T-cell test kits is also growing and becoming mainstream in parts of Europe "as the important role of T cells has become more widely recognized as a critical means of assessing vaccine efficacy, particularly in immunosuppressed and other high-risk populations," he said.

Oxford Immunotec has published about 15 peer-reviewed studies on its T-cell technology, and it believes "this testing will last well into 2022 and probably beyond as we learn to live with SARS-CoV-2 as an endemic mutating global virus," Wrighton-Smith said.

Further, the company believes it can extend its immunology testing services beyond COVID-19 to support its vaccine and pharma clients by leveraging PerkinElmer's network of clinical laboratories, and by partnering with BioLegend, which has a large portfolio of immunology research reagents. PerkinElmer acquired the business in late September for $5.25 billion.

Wrighton-Smith noted that an advantage of being part of PerkinElmer is that it has a large range of businesses with capabilities it can tap into. For example, by in-sourcing raw materials from other PerkinElmer businesses, such as BioLegend, rather than from third parties, Oxford Immunotec can reduce its cost of goods.

Aside from BioLegend's reagent portfolio, he pointed to Euroimmun's presence in South America and Tulip Diagnostics' footprint in India, which Oxford Immunotec plans to take advantage of. Euroimmun develops autoimmune and infectious disease diagnostic tests, as well as allergy tests. Tulip develops infectious diseases diagnostic tests.

"PerkinElmer is very unusual in having a huge amount of life science reagents" used by diagnostics firms, Wrighton-Smith said. "But it goes far beyond that. We are starting to benefit from PerkinElmer's purchasing power as a combined entity."

He added that PerkinElmer's instrument menu has allowed Oxford Immunotec to proceed on its plans to automate its tests and workflows. "We are accelerating our automation journey … by adopting PerkinElmer's suite of automation both from core PerkinElmer in the form of Janus and by utilizing technology from acquired companies such as Euroimmun and Nexcelom" Bioscience, Wrighton-Smith said.

Janus develops automated liquid handling workstations and Nexcelom develops cell counters and analyzers.

According to Singh, PerkinElmer expects Oxford Immunotec's new automated TB workflow to be approved by US regulators in 2022.

Wrighton-Smith also noted that not being a standalone publicly traded firm has resulted in lower infrastructure costs for Oxford Immunotec, and the firm has trimmed its general and administrative expenses by leveraging PerkinElmer's capabilities in those areas.

"Putting all this together, even just six months since becoming part of the PerkinElmer family, we're seeing intensified revenue growth and improved profitability on the bottom line," Wrighton-Smith said.