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French company buys Utah's BioFire in $450 million deal

Published September 4, 2013 9:37 am

Deal • Salt Lake City disease diagnostics firm expects to continue rapid expansion.
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A French medical diagnostics company has purchased a Salt Lake City biomedical company for $450 million and assumed its debts.

The French company, bioMérieux, said Tuesday it has acquired ownership of privately-held BioFire Diagnostics Inc., which has developed equipment to detect the cause of infectious diseases, whether a virus or bacteria. A doctor suspecting a respiratory disease, for example, can use a BioFire test product to identify the cause among 20 viruses or bacteria in about an hour.

BioFire, which has about 500 employees and is projected to have $70 million in revenue this year, will remain at the company's offices in the University of Utah's Research Park after the acquisition closes by the end of the year or early next year.

"In fact, we expect the Utah site to grow," said Randy Rasmussen, a cofounder and president of the company. "bioMérieux has decided to make Salt Lake City its center of molecular excellence."

That means the Utah company expects its rapid growth to continue and even accelerate, he said.

The French company is headquartered in Marcy l'Etoile near Lyon. It has more than $2 billion in annual revenue, with 7,500 employees worldwide.

"It is considered one of the top two or three [companies] in our space," said Rasmussen.

BioFire Diagnostics was founded in 1990 by Rasumussen, Board Chairman Carl Wittwer and CEO Kirk Kirie. The company was started in 1990 as Idaho Technology with offices in Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City before it was consolidated in Utah in 1999. Last year, it changed its named to BioFire Diagnostics.

"We're basically a spinout of the University of Utah," Rasmussen said.

The purchase of the Salt Lake City company "enables us to reinforce our infectious disease franchise, our main area of specialization," Jean-Luc Belingard, chairman and CEO of bioMérieux, said in a statement. "On all our markets, we now have a complete portfolio of particularly innovative technologies with two key benefits: enhanced medical value of diagnostics and optimized workflows in medical laboratories."

Belingard addressed BioFire employees about the deal on Tuesday.

The deal gives the Salt Lake City company a global sales force that can sell its products worldwide, said Rasmussen.

Eric Gorrell, BioFire's general counsel and corporate secretary, said the deal had been in the works for more than a year.

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib