Scientific instrument makers started the year off with low expectations. At the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy in March, executives said world economic uncertainty could restrain instrument sales in 2012 following an improvement in 2011.
However, they continued to enlarge their involvement in the market for medical diagnostics. Instrument makers, which for years had enabled research on new drugs, increasingly saw a role for themselves in making diagnostics used by physicians to help choose those drugs at the point of care.
In May, Agilent Technologies agreed to acquire Dako, a Danish cancer diagnostics company, for $2.2 billion. In July, Thermo Fisher Scientific agreed to buy the transplant diagnostics firm One Lambda for $925 million. The same month Life Technologies acquired Navigenics, a personalized genetics test firm, for an undisclosed amount. In September, Danaher signed an agreement to acquire Iris International, a maker of automated urinalysis diagnostic systems and related consumables, for $338 million.
Instrument users encountered some difficulties during the year for which their suppliers did not have a quick and easy answer. Those who use liquid helium to cool nuclear magnetic resonance imaging magnets or to prepare samples for analysis were having trouble buying the inert element. The situation stayed dire for some users, and helium suppliers said the situation would get worse before it gets better.