Thermo Fisher nets hand-held COVID-19 test maker Mesa Biotech with $550M deal

Mesa Biotech Accula
Thermo Fisher's bid for Mesa Biotech and its handheld, molecular-based Accula tests also follows last year's $12.5 billion offer for diagnostic supplier Qiagen, which collapsed last August as the pandemic continues to drive demand for COVID-19 screening. (Mesa Biotech)

Thermo Fisher Scientific continues to spend the massive windfall from COVID-19 testing that it’s gathered over the past year, with its second nine-digit acquisition in less than a week. This time, it’s reinvesting in coronavirus diagnostics with the purchase of hand-held test maker Mesa Biotech in a deal worth up to $550 million.

The buyout follows the company’s recent $878 million pickup of Novasep’s Henogen division, which produces viral vectors used in certain COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments—and after Chairman, President and CEO Marc Casper said that 2021 would see Thermo Fisher quickly accelerate its long-term road map of M&A plans, as he outlined during last week’s annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference.

Casper also expects to post 25% growth for the full year of 2020, including “well over $6 billion in COVID-19 response revenue,” he said. Last October, the company reported $2 billion in coronavirus-related sales alone for the year’s third quarter, out of $8.52 billion total. Thermo Fisher’s next earnings report is scheduled for Feb. 1.

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Meanwhile, the San Diego-based Mesa Biotech—with its rapid, molecular Accula tests available at the point-of-care for COVID-19, as well as the flu and other respiratory diseases—brings about 500 employees and about $45 million in 2020 revenue. 

"Mesa Biotech's innovative platform will enable us to accelerate the availability of reliable and accurate advanced molecular diagnostics at the point of care," said Mark Stevenson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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"The addition of Mesa Biotech's easy-to-use, rapid PCR-based test is highly complementary to our existing offering and will further help us meet the continuing demand for COVID-related testing while we work to rapidly scale and develop point-of-care tests for other infectious diseases in the future," Stevenson added.

The deal, expected to close by the end of March, includes $450 million in cash plus an agreement for up to $100 million more pending the completion of future milestones.

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Mesa Biotech has also been selected by the National Institutes of Health to advance through its “Shark Tank” COVID-19 diagnostics competition—granting it federal funding to help scale up its manufacturing lines—and recently obtained FDA clearance for its Accula test for strep throat.

“Mesa's innovative rapid PCR platform technology, combining PCR accuracy with mobility and test results in 30 minutes, has already played a meaningful role in the collective efforts combating the pandemic,” President and CEO Ingo Chakravarty said. “Thermo Fisher's scale, innovation and global reach will allow us to more significantly amplify the impact our technology will have on human health, during the pandemic, and far beyond."