Agilent acquires Molecular Imaging, moves into AFM market

Dec. 1, 2005 — Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE:A), the Hewlett-Packard spinout that recently reoriented itself to focus on test and measurement applications, moved into the atomic force microscope market this week when it announced the acquisition of Molecular Imaging Corp. of Tempe, Ariz.

The acquisition is intended to support Agilent’s broad goal of addressing test and measurement markets for both electronics and life sciences, according to Bob Burns, general manager of Agilent’s Nano Measurements Division. In addition, it is intended to take advantage of business and technology synergies between the two organizations.

Agilent’s global sales staff is expected to substantially increase the exposure of the Molecular Imaging AFM product line. In turn, said Vance Nau, president and CEO of Molecular Imaging, the acquisition will help his staff members focus on their core responsibilities.

Molecular Imaging’s chief product line is the PicoPlus family of modular, high-resolution AFMs, which are used for imaging in fluids as well as ambient and controlled environmental and temperature conditions. Customers are currently researchers in the areas of drug discovery, life science, electrochemistry, materials science and polymer science.

On the technical side, Burns said he and Nau shared “a vision…to take this technology and evolve it to the next level.” In particular, the executives explained, that means working to simultaneously improve performance and ease-of-use.

“Right now scanning probe microscopes are still very much something that needs to be operated by a specialist,” said Burns. He said the company intended to improve the device’s speed as well as add functionality that would make imaging less reliant on the interpretive abilities of the user.

“To broaden the customer base, you need to greatly simplify it,” said Nau, who said if the device were easier to use, then a technician could operate it rather than a Ph.D. scientist. Other long-range plans include automating devices for specific applications in manufacturing and other areas.

Burns said Agilent will keep the Molecular Imaging group — which numbers roughly 40 people — in Tempe because the company has strong ties with Arizona State University. Nau said all Molecular Imaging employees were offered positions with Agilent and that “virtually 100 percent” accepted them. Molecular Imaging was founded in 1993 by Stuart Lindsay and Tianwei Jing of Arizona State University.

– David Forman


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