Cellink Acquires Revolutionary Microscopy Firm for $110M


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Bioprinting rocket Cellink unveiled a $110 million deal to acquire disruptive microscope manufacturer Discover Echo. The move is expected to generate roughly $20 million in revenue in 2021 and is in line with Cellink’s powerful bioconvergence strategy to strengthen its product offering through cutting-edge and innovative products, bringing the group closer to offering complete workflows to its customers in biopharma, academia, and hospitals. Echo will continue as a standalone company, part of Cellink’s biosciences business area, and is expected to display growth potential in the bioprocessing industry where Cellink is a well-known supplier.

Echo is Cellink’s fifth acquisition so far this year, following the buyout of Finnish robotics firm Ginolis in February for $83 million; in vitro technology innovator MatTek in March for $68 million, and in May the purchase of high-precision 3D printer manufacturer Nanoscribe for $60 million and contract research services provider Visikol for $7.5 million. The Swedish-Boston-based firm has been consistently increasing its business portfolio since 2018, adding new technologies to its growing range of products used by cell culture researchers worldwide for applications in tissue engineering, cell line development, multi-omics, and diagnostics.

Cellink said all its customers could benefit from Echo’s products, opening up a potential for cross-selling and product bundling, which could help grow multiple product lines and increase the use of consumables offered. Company CEO and Co-Founder Erik Gatenholm sees in Echo’s revolutionary microscopy technology and disruptive product line a complement to Cellink’s existing bioconvergence products and a way to capture strong cross-selling synergies.

Cellink had already permeated the microscopy field in 2019 by introducing its Cellcyte X technology, equipped with a five-megapixel camera, right on par with most microscope cameras. Launching the platform allowed researchers to better monitor bioprinted structures and the proliferation of 3D printed cells in their respective environments. Today, Gatenholm considers the world of microscopy is going through a “massive transformation.” In fact, the microscopy market is projected to reach $8.2 billion in 2024 from $6.3 billion in 2019, driven by a high demand for advanced magnification devices from the healthcare sector and the rapidly growing semiconductor industry.

With Discover Echo’s first and only hybrid microscopes, Cellink anticipates it will continue revolutionizing a century-old industry. Legacy microscope manufacturers offer complex instrumentation, consisting of multiple hardware accessories and software modules that only well-trained microscopy experts can operate. In addition, most life science labs own two microscopes: upright for viewing glass slides and inverted for viewing live samples in Petri dishes and well plates. Instead, the San Diego, California company founded in 2013 by microscopy expert Eugene Cho has been focused on developing, manufacturing, and selling patented and hybrid microscopes that easily transform between upright and inverted configurations, merging the capabilities of multiple instruments into one.

Discover Echo’s revolutionary microscope that easily transforms between upright and inverted configurations. Image courtesy of Discover Echo/Cellink.

With clients like NASA, Stanford University, Roche, and Pfizer, the startup microscope maker has come a long way since developing its flagship Revolve microscope, which integrated the functionality of an upright and an inverted microscope with tablet and cloud-based technologies. At the time, Cho described his company as ”challenging the status quo of microscopy and bringing in advanced usability of the 21st century” to researchers everywhere. His vision was well-received among investors as well. Just three years after being founded, it closed a $2 million funding round led by Tech Coast Angels in less than two months and was said to be the Angel network’s largest funding round for the year.

Focused on creating user-friendly and intuitive products, Cho said he wanted scientists to concentrate on the biology under the lenses rather than the technicalities of operating a microscope. With that aim in mind, Echo has done a great job of redefining the industry’s user experience by integrating ultra-high-resolution touch-screen displays and a software app that advances the workflow of acquiring, sharing, and analyzing images.

Since Revolve, Echo went on to develop two more platforms with the same underlying technology. Its compact Rebel system was designed as a workhorse microscope for tissue culture, while the most comprehensive microscope out of the three, called Revolution, offers fully automated, high-performance imaging.

Overall, Echo has developed a microscope for every need and budget, considering that not all research labs worldwide have the budget to purchase the most high-end systems but are in desperate need of cutting-edge technology to advance their work. So far, the product’s most prolific market has been North America, but Echo has also gained a strong presence in Europe, where it opened a subsidiary and Asia.

Discover Echo’s three microscopes leverage its unique hybrid technology that easily transforms between upright and inverted configurations. Image courtesy of Discover Echo/Cellink.

Now that Echo is part of Cellink, it will transition from a disruptive microscopy business to contributing to Cellink’s mission of advancing healthcare through bioconvergence and redefining the future of medicine. Moving forward, the company expects to strengthen its product portfolio to obtain even stronger synergies with existing Cellink platforms.

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