So Close Together for So Long, and Now One

Monday, August 20, 2007

Not long ago, Peer Schatz, the chief executive of Qiagen, was preparing a presentation for employees of Digene, the Gaithersburg firm that his company recently purchased for $1.6 billion.

He realized that Qiagen, which is based in the Netherlands, and Digene were founded at about the same time in the mid-1980s. The firms went public in 1996, only 30 days apart. The name of his company was supposed to be Diagen, but he said it didn't work out "because there was this weird company in Maryland called Digene."

To top things off, Qiagen has a sprawling campus in Germantown, a few miles from Digene's headquarters. "It's almost like a cheap movie," Schatz said. "These companies were just crossing paths all the time."

And now they are one.

Qiagen completed its purchase of Digene on July 30, and Schatz was in town last week to check on how the integration was going. The company will be called Qiagen, but it is keeping Digene's facility, which produces the only federally approved test for human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer.

Schatz said no Digene employees had lost their jobs in the deal, but as the merger moves forward and if jobs overlap, the company hopes to have other positions available.

"I tell people we have two sites in the States: One in Valencia, Calif., the other in Gaitherstown," Schatz said, playing off the neighborly relationship between the joined firms. He added, "This is actually a great way to mix cultures."

-- Michael S. Rosenwald

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