Lifecodes Corp. agrees to buy Cellmark unit Firm ran DNA tests for Simpson trial

March 19, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

A Connecticut biotechnology company has agreed to buy Cellmark Diagnostics, the Germantown firm that drew national attention for its DNA testing of blood samples for the prosecution in the O. J. Simpson case.

Lifecodes Corp., based in Stamford, Conn., declined to say how much it would pay the British biotechnology company Zeneca Group PLC for its U.S. Cellmark unit, the nation's largest private forensic DNA testing firm.

The agreement calls for Lifecodes to license the Cellmark name for use in the United States. Zeneca, which had sales of $7.6 billion last year, will retain control of its Cellmark Diagnostics unit based in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Michael Baird, vice president for laboratory operations for Lifecodes, said Cellmark would operate as a wholly owned subsidiary and its 29 employees would stay in Maryland.

Dr. Baird said Lifecodes, which employs about 30, decided to purchase Cellmark so Lifecodes could broaden its product line and testing services.

"This should help us double revenues," said Dr. Baird, though he declined to disclose sales figures for closely held Lifecodes, founded in 1982.

Cellmark's president, Daniel Garner, said the consolidation should help position both companies to face increasing competition in the "human identity testing" market.

Lifecodes offers DNA testing services, such as those to determine paternity, and sells DNA testing products to laboratory customers around the country. More than 50 percent of its business, said Dr. Baird, comes from sales of its test kits and other products.

Cellmark's revenues, on the other hand, come chiefly from its DNA "fingerprinting" services for police and prosecutors around the nation to determine if forensic samples, such as blood, genetically match those of crime suspects.

In October 1994, Cellmark became the first private laboratory in the country to receive a prestigious stamp of proficiency in the DNA testing field accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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