Magnetic Nano-Beads for Rapid Covid-19 Detection in $21 Billion Purchase of GE’s Biopharma Business

Magnetic nanoparticles from biopharma company Cytiva, formerly named GE Healthcare Life Sciences, are positioned to play a role in the booming biotech business that is focused on rapid detection of the Covid-19 virus. They are part of a $21 billion acquisition of the GE business unit in March by life sciences conglomerate Danaher. 

The company’s new SeraSil-Mag silica coated superparamagnetic particles are designed for diagnostic analyses of nucleic extractions from biofluids and liquid biopsy samples. A recent application report from Cytiva notes that the particles can be effective for sensitive detection of viruses such as Covid-19 as well as Adenovirus and Influenza. High magnetization (60 emu/g) and strong binding capacity provide fast magnetic response, in about five seconds, and shorten the time required for processing. In high throughput nucleic acid extraction applications, magnetic particles have become the method of choice, replacing the more complex processing associated with column-based approaches, says the company. 

SeraSil-Mag beads at 1 milliAngstrom resolution 

The beads come in two uniform sizes, one at about 700 nm diameter and the smaller one at 400 nm. The new particles are part of an extensive line of encapsulated ferromagnetic particles and reagents from the company which have superparamagnetism properties. In sufficiently small nanoparticles, magnetization can randomly flip direction under the influence of temperature. Other products in the line include Sera-Mag SpeedBeads for particularly fast magnetic response and shorter assay times in clinical diagnostic tests. 

SeraMag-Select reagents 
MagRack 6 

The company also provides specialized magnetic processing equipment for labs. Its MagRack 6 is a magnetic rack for small-scale protein purification and sample enrichment with magnetic beads. Each rack has a detachable plastic bar (white) containing a neodymium magnet. The photo at the top of this article shows the company’s MagRack Maxi, also having a Neodymium magnet bar, being used.  

Danaher renamed the business Cytiva to operate as a standalone company within its $6.5 billion per year life sciences segment. The full portfolio acquired includes instruments, consumables, and software that support the biopharmaceutical industry. Cytiva adds about $3.2 billion in revenues, with approximately 75% of the revenues considered recurring, to the segment. Danaher has more than 20 operating companies globally and 67,000 employees.

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