Tecan not only provides end customers with automation solutions , but is also a leading developer and manufacturer of OEM instruments and components which partner companies sell under their own name. Tecan has been operating its OEM business since the Company was founded 40 years ago. The share of this business segment in the total sales of the Tecan Group was 44% in 2020.
SALES TO THIRD PARTIES
PARTNERING BUSINESS(CHF million)
PARTNERING BUSINESS(CHF million)
PARTNERING BUSINESS(CHF million)
PARTNERING BUSINESS(in % of sales)
- Sales to third parties + intersegment sales
The Partnering Business generated sales of CHF 322.1 million during the year under review (2019: CHF 275.7 million), which corresponds to a strong increase of 18.8% in local currencies and 16.8% in Swiss francs.
Similar patterns to those in the Life Sciences Business were observed in the Partnering Business, with automation platforms, OEM components and disposable pipette tips to support COVID-19 testing being in high demand. By contrast, sales to customers exposed to other areas of in-vitro diagnostics were adversely impacted. Segment sales in the second half year increased by 30.0% in local currencies and 27.9% in Swiss francs.
Also in the Partnering Business, order entry increased at a substantially higher rate than sales.
Operating profit in this segment (earnings before interest and taxes; EBIT) increased to CHF 59.1 million (2019: CHF 46.2 million), while the operating profit margin grew to 18.3% of sales (2019: 16.7%).
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020
- Supporting customers around the world with equipment and OEM components to automate diagnostic PCR tests to help fight the coronavirus pandemic
- New collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, to enable scaled-up COVID-19 testing globally
- Good progress made with development projects to prepare for important product launches in 2021 and 2022
In the Partnering Business, Tecan manages corporate customers, who are mainly diagnostics companies, centrally via Key Account Management. Employees in Europe, North America and Asia ensure the local management of existing customers and support the acquisition of new customers. There are direct sales employees in the individual national markets for the components business.
In the components business, Tecan supports instrument manufacturers with essential components where they want to develop an instrument themselves. By contrast, in the instruments business, Tecan takes over the development of the entire system, which it then manufactures under contract.
In the Partnering Business, Tecan benefits from diagnostics and other life science companies outsourcing instrument development, either entirely or for specific parts, to specialists like itself. This enables these companies to focus on developing diagnostic or research-related tests. This trend has accelerated in recent years, especially in the development of instruments that automate novel applications such as gene sequencing or other molecular-diagnostic technologies. OEM customers benefit from Tecan’s extensive technology experience in a wide range of instruments and modules in the area of laboratory automation. By outsourcing instrument development, customers are able, among other things, to shorten the time to launch while also gaining access to Tecan’s innovative technologies.
Tecan has a wide range of products. The Company has developed various well-known diagnostics instruments in the OEM business and serves several hundred customers with components.
Tecan is the market leader in laboratory automation liquid handling components. The Company supplies laboratory instrument manufacturers with essential components such as precision pumps, valves, robotic arms and developer software. The renowned Tecan Cavro® components are used in systems that have a wide range of applications in life science research, diagnostics and numerous other industries. In customers’ product ranges, Tecan components generally remain an indispensable element over the entire life cycle of a device. For example, Tecan supplies manufacturers in the fast-growing area of next generation sequencing with Tecan Cavro® pumps for precision handling of fluids in different sequencers. During 2020, Tecan saw substantial demand for the Cavro ADP, one of the smallest and most sophisticated air pipettors on the market.
In 2019, Tecan broadened the components portfolio through the acquisition of a long-term supplier of key parts, also vertically integrating the manufacturing of critical precision-machined parts. With two manufacturing sites, one in California (USA) and another in Ben Cat Town (Vietnam), Tecan is benefiting from the long-term supply of high-quality precision-machined parts and realizing cost savings by internalizing their supply.
PLATFORM-BASED AUTOMATION SOLUTIONS
Rapid market launch and low development costs are key for some OEM customers. In these cases, Tecan can adapt the products and platforms it develops for its own end customers to the specific needs of OEM customers. These adapted and standardized platforms are then distributed under the customers’ own brand name as system solutions that combine Tecan’s instruments with the partner’s own specific tests. Tecan has a broad range of modular platforms suited to applications with low to high sample throughput. Detection instruments from Tecan can also be modified or integrated into fully automated laboratory solutions for OEM customers.
One example of this type of platform-based automation solution is one of the world’s most successful molecular diagnostic platforms. It is marketed by the partner as a system solution jointly with a wide range of different molecular diagnostic tests. Applications include, for example, therapy monitoring in HIV or hepatitis patients and detection of sexually transmitted infections. During 2020, this reliable instrument platform became a backbone of COVID-19 testing with new molecular diagnostic tests designed to detect SARS-CoV-2 approved for use on the system.
This platform-based approach is very popular in China, too. Many up-and-coming Chinese diagnostics companies are relying on the high-quality platforms of Tecan to automate locally developed tests, for example for molecular diagnostics. With Tecan platforms already registered with the Chinese FDA, the local diagnostics companies were able to run their newly developed and approved COVID-19 PCR tests on their existing platforms.
DEDICATED AUTOMATION SOLUTIONS
When an OEM customer is looking for a specific product, designed and manufactured to a specific functionality and cost, a dedicated system development can be the most suitable answer. Dedicated systems are usually most appropriate for products with a longer life cycle and when the specific functionality and total cost-of-ownership are the key decision criteria. By choosing to partner with Tecan, OEM customers get access to the Company’s full range of technologies, modules and software solutions as well as its expertise in system integration and regulatory and quality-related processes.
The corporate strategy pursues three vectors to ensure sustainable profitable growth. Tecan’s specific strategies allow it to drive forward customer projects with the respective business models of the two business segments.
EXPANDING THE CORE BUSINESS
In the in-vitro diagnostics market, some of the instrument development and production will be outsourced to specialists like Tecan. In this addressable market segment, Tecan, through its Partnering Business, is the partner of choice for automation systems and components for many companies in the in-vitro diagnostics industry. Tecan supports these partners with development, the associated ramp-up in serial production to full lifecycle management and more options.
Key application areas for the Partnering Business are:
- Genomics workflows (Molecular Diagnostics, Next-Generation Sequencing)
- Protein analysis, particularly workflows of mass spectrometry and immunoassays
- Cell analysis (e.g. flow cytometry)
- Tissue analysis (e.g. advanced staining)
- Blood typing for transfusion medicine
SUPPLY OF MAJOR INSTRUMENT PLATFORMS
Tecan has a broad base of OEM customers and is continuously increasing the number of development and supply agreements. The supply of new instruments generates additional sales stepwise, building on the established base. This enables Tecan to grow more rapidly than the market.
DAKO OMNIS FOR DAKO
Dako Omnis, a platform for automated advanced staining which is used in tissue-based cancer diagnostics, is one example of a dedicated automation solution. The system automates both established processes in the diagnosis of abnormal cells: immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in-situ hybridization (ISH).
Dako Omnis produced for Dako – an Agilent Technologies company – offers full automation and fulfils the requirements of large diagnostic laboratories, hospitals and universities. It offers continuous loading with individual samples or batch loading, as well as the option of leaving the system to run overnight. It therefore sets new standards for what customers can expect from an automated platform with regard to flexibility, capacity, efficiency and traceability of samples.
ORTHO VISION® ANALYZER FOR ORTHO CLINICAL DIAGNOSTICS
The ORTHO VISION Analyzer is a next-generation diagnostics instrument used for blood typing and to determine other important blood parameters. The device was developed by Tecan for Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a market leader in immunohematology.
The ORTHO VISION Analyzer heralds a new era in transfusion medicine, with Responsive Automation. ORTHO VISION Max is another variant of the instrument for transfusion medicine laboratories and has a high sample throughput. Innovative monitoring technologies and control mechanisms give transfusion medicine professionals the ability to track every critical process step. In addition, laboratory personnel can react at any time to ever-changing conditions within the laboratory and unpredictable requirements. For example, particularly urgent cases can be rapidly processed by loading samples into the ORTHO VISION Analyzer on the fly, allowing for prioritization.
THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC LEVERAGING TECAN’S AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGY
In August 2020, Tecan has signed a new agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, to enable scaled-up COVID-19 testing globally. Since then, Thermo Fisher Scientific has introduced a new highly automated, real-time PCR solution designed to analyze up to 8,000 samples in a single day to meet increasing global demand for COVID-19 testing. The high-throughput system enables laboratories to significantly scale up their testing capacity to support global efforts to return communities back to work and school.
The Thermo Fisher Scientific Amplitude Solution includes instruments of the Tecan Fluent Laboratory Workstation family, the highest performance platform within Tecan’s extensive portfolio of liquid handling solutions for laboratory automation and the Introspect software, an instrument and consumables usage analysis and reporting software.
DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE AND INSTRUMENT PRODUCT LAUNCHES
Tecan made considerable progress with a number of development projects in the Partnering Business and has concluded new development agreements during 2020. Various projects are currently in the development phase. These projects cover Tecan’s focus application areas including molecular diagnostics and protein analysis, with sales potential of individual projects ranging from single-digit to clear double-digit million amounts in Swiss francs per year.
One of those projects soon to launch is, for example an ongoing development program with The Binding Site Group (Birmingham, UK). The two companies are jointly developing an automated solution for The Binding Site, based on Tecan’s Fluent platform, using mass spectrometry to diagnose blood cancers.
To continuously fill the development pipeline, Tecan is currently discussing a range of projects with potential future partners. The majority of projects in the rich funnel are in the area of molecular diagnostics and other fast growing applications.
At the same time, projects are successfully concluded on a continuous basis. One of the recently launched systems for example is the PS-10 Sample Prep System for Japan-based Sysmex Corporation. This new instrument platform was developed on the basis of Tecan’s Cavro® Omni Flex platform, which was adapted specifically to the area of flow cytometry. Flow cytometry is applied in healthcare, microbiology, industrial applications, quality control, as well as plant and animal cytology.
The PS-10 is a highly automated, flexible sample prep system for laboratory developed tests and routine flow cytometry applications. It helps highly trained operators to concentrate on analyzing data and allows existing laboratory procedures to be easily incorporated.
For 2021, again several additional market launches are expected.
TECAN CAVRO - EXCELLENCE IN THE WORLD OF OEM COMPONENTS
Numerous customers are also developing instruments incorporating innovative Tecan components as elements. When serial production of these instruments begins, it will result in higher volumes of the components being required and therefore higher sales for Tecan. Various new instruments were launched by the respective partners in 2020.
During 2020, Tecan saw a substantial increase in demand for the Tecan Cavro Air Displacement Pipettor (ADP). Designed for easy integration into compact instruments, this pipetting module is ideal for applications that use disposable tips to prevent carry-over or contamination, such as molecular diagnostics, cell culturing and point of care (POC) diagnostics.
For example, in early 2020, AusDiagnostics, an Australian in vitro diagnostics company offering molecular diagnostic testing platforms, has launched the Ultra-Plex 96 high throughput screening system. The company chose to integrate the Cavro® ADP as it was ready-made, reducing engineering research and speeding up the development of the full platform. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant demand for the Ultra-Plex 96 platform from both hospital and private laboratories performing diagnostic SARS-CoV-2 testing.
Another example is the BioXp™ 3200 for Codex DNA, a synthetic biology company based in San Diego, USA. The system enables researchers to quickly build synthetic gene constructs in their own lab, accelerating vaccine, therapy and diagnostic assay design and delivery workflows. Choosing the Tecan Cavro ADP as the best fit for their application, Codex DNA was able to significantly reduce the time from beginning of the project to production of the first instrument.
NEW GROUNDBREAKING SOFTWARE PLATFORM AS BASIS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS
In instrument development projects, the importance of software has continuously increased over the years. The software platform hereby has to control the system itself and at the same time needs to cover a wide range of applications. A competitive OEM offering has to therefore include not only modular hardware but also modular software, where parts and software code can be re-used to create new configurations – without having to start from scratch. Fast time to market, reduced life cycle management cost and multi-application utilization are key aspects when it comes to developing software for a dynamic product portfolio in a regulated environment.
With the introduction of the groundbreaking MAPlinx™ OEM software platform, Tecan can address those increasing demands with a design that is based on fully pre-tested modular building blocks. Whether it is sample preparation for next generation sequencing, an automated immunoassay workflow or another application, MAPlinx can be tailored to match an OEM customer’s automation needs. It is one common software architecture, regardless of the specific hardware platform or application.
MAPlinx is also at the heart of the new Cavro Magni Flex platform that was developed for low- to mid-throughput volume needs. Together with the Fluent workstation, Tecan’s high-speed automation solution, MAPlinx can also be leveraged for high throughput volumes that are not covered by the Cavro Magni Flex.
The modular components can be adapted for a wide range of applications including molecular testing, blood group analysis, immunoassays, histology/cytology, mass spectrometry and more. This allows Tecan’s clients to address different future market needs and leverage the intention of the modular portfolio to be faster to market.
OPENING UP GLOBAL GROWTH MARKETS
As in the Life Sciences Business segment, there is also significant market potential for Tecan in the Partnering Business in China. Sales have increased disproportionately in this region in recent years. Local device manufacturers are increasingly integrating Tecan components in various areas of application to ensure the necessary instrument quality and reliability. Several instruments have already been granted marketing authorization, and are now being manufactured in larger quantities. Furthermore, Tecan is also increasingly supplying Chinese diagnostics companies with entire instruments.
BUILDING UP FURTHER PILLARS IN THE INSTRUMENT MARKET
In the Partnering Business segment, Tecan mainly supplies diagnostics companies with instruments and components. Further pillars in the instrument market for life science research should therefore only be built up in the Life Sciences Business segment at present.
EXPANSION OF RECURRING REVENUES
The third vector focuses on expanding recurring revenues. In the year under review, sales from services, spare parts and consumables increased significantly. As in the Life Sciences Business, the disposable pipette tip business saw a substantial increase in demand due to COVID-19 testing. As a result, overall recurring sales of services, consumables and reagents in the Partnering Business amounted to about 30% of total segment sales in 2020.
Support for OEM customers in the Partnering Business segment will not end once instrument development is finished. Tecan also offers OEM customers a range of services after the product is launched via its global service infrastructure. The Company can install instruments directly at the end customer’s location, provide a helpdesk facility, train the OEM customer’s service team and even handle the complete service portfolio for devices itself. In addition, Tecan maximizes instrument operation time by providing a global spare parts service. OEM customers in the diagnostics market may benefit from Tecan’s high-quality consumables such as certified pipette tips, which are an important component of a validated workflow solution.