All three companies already have products or expertise in different areas of the market.
Molecular Dynamics, a Californian company that is a leading developer of life sciences instruments, will provide sales, marketing and support. Hitachi will contribute a sequencing machine - it has recently developed a smaller, cheaper machine. Amersham has both a new product, which robotically prepares genetic material for sequencing, and 'reagent kits' necessary for the sequencing process.
Under the deal Amersham and Molecular Dynamics will form a joint venture, which will split profits from the exclusive sale of Hitachi's Vistra DNA Sequencer, Amersham's Vistra Labstation, and the reagent kits.
In the US and Europe Molecular Dynamics will be responsible for marketing and servicing the products; in Japan the responsibility will be Hitachi's.
Separately, Amersham has acquired a three-year option to buy just over 1 million shares - 10 per cent - of Molecular Dynamics at up to dollars 13.20 ( pounds 9.10) a share.
Trevor Nicholls, Amersham's group marketing manager, said the Hitachi Sequencer would sell for almost half the pounds 80,000 that competing products cost, probably expanding the market.
At present, most academic institutions such as universities tended to buy a single machine and research teams had to book time on it, he said. In future the hope would be that each research team would be able to afford its own sequencer.
Amersham estimates the market for sequencers and reagent kits is worth about dollars 180m ( pounds 120m) a year. In addition, it expects substantial sales of its new Labstation processor, which will cost about pounds 50,000.
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