Biomerieux advances on food safety diagnostics, MRSA testing

France's bioMerieux is looking to solidify its position as a leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics through acquisitions and diagnostic tests to detect superbugs, hospital acquired infections and MRSA. And one area the company is especially focusing on is food safety--encompassing prevention, detection and quality assurance. Roughly 48 million Americans, or 17 percent of the total U.S. population, are sickened each year from tainted food. And the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe further emphasizes the need to safeguard our food supply. Indeed, food testing is such a growing need, and we're witnessing a convergence in food and health, bioMerieux CEO Stephane Bancel told FierceMedicalDevices recently. To emphasize the convergence, Bancel pointed to Nestlé's recent acquisition of San Diego-based Prometheus Laboratories, a diagnostics company, for a price estimated by one analyst at more than $1.4 billion.

bioMerieux, which has a presence in more than 150 countries and had 2010 revenues of about $2 billion, recently acquired France's AES Laboratoire-- a specialist in industrial microbiological control--for 183 million euros. It is bioMérieux's ninth acquisition in five years and its third in the area of industrial applications. With its expertise in all steps of microbiological analysis, AES Laboratoire has products spanning applications for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

As MedCity News points out, bioMerieux's strength is in medical diagnostics, and some of its recent acquisitions have reflected the firm's effort to boost its capabilities in that area. It gained molecular diagnostics capabilities with its $60 million purchase of San Diego company AviaraDx, whose technology is used for cancer diagnostics. It also has a partnership with Ipsen to develop companion diagnostics for cancer.

The company also recently received FDA 510(k) clearance for its NucliSENS EasyQ MRSA, an automated molecular test for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and is responsible for about 94,000 life-threatening infections and nearly 19,000 deaths each year, according to the CDC. The test detects seven MRSA types, covering the most prevalent strains. It also simultaneously detects two targets, providing increased confidence to the screening results. The EasyQ system will support efficient batch processing of up to 46 MRSA screening tests in a compact space with a turn-around time of only three hours.

MRSA has been in the news lately, especially after scientists identified a new strain that occurs both in human and dairy cow populations. The study was led by the University of Cambridge's Dr. Mark Holmes and identified the new strain in milk from dairy cows while researching a bacterial infection which occurs in the cows' udders. The research findings are published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. - Liz Hollis (email | twitter)