Overall Millipore recorded sales of $396m in the first quarter, up 7 per cent, helped by a strong showing in its Bioscience business. Meanwhile operating income advanced 45 per cent to $58m. Revenues derived from products used in biopharmaceutical manufacturing were down 7 per cent on the same period of 2007, the result of weak performance by a 'handful of large US biotech customers', according to Madaus. He noted this is mainly the result of companies reducing their raw material and finished drug inventories, something that started to be felt in the second half of 2007, although the effect on these major players was offset by stronger sales to smaller biotechs. However, Millipore's Bioscience division - which makes laboratory products - put in a 'solid performance', said Madaus, with revenues up a solid 6 per cent, although favourable exchange rates pushed the increase up to 14 points. The service side of the Bioscience division benefitted from the trend towards outsourcing drug discovery activities by Big Pharma as well as the perennially strong demand for Millipore's lab water systems. "Within our service offering we're seeing increasing demand particularly for secondary screening, lead optimisation and biomarker validation services," said Madaus. "There is a fundamental shift, we believe, by large pharma customers to outsource R&D activities they've historically done in-house," said Madaus. "Millipore is well positioned to benefit from these trends." Bioprocess recovery in the offing? Madaus is predicting a return to form for the bioprocess division in the latter half of 2008, suggesting in a conference call that greater use of disposable manufacturing products and systems used in vaccine production would underpin that recovery. "Since expanding our presence in disposable manufacturing products a few years ago with the acquisition of Newport Biosystems, we are now operating at 100 per cent capacity, and these products are among the fastest growing in the Millipore portfolio," he said. Millipore estimates the market for disposables is currently in the region of $300m-$500m and growing at around 20 per cent a year - by far the highest rate of all the sectors Millipore serves. It sees potential for market growth from a number of new biologic drugs coming through the development pipeline, expanded indications for some already marketed drugs and the continued resurgence in the vaccine market. Madaus pointed to a new generation of vaccines such as Merck & Co's cervical cancer product Gardasil, as well as new immunotherapies, as the drivers for some of that growth. A key competitive advantage for Millipore, said Madaus, is its ability to supply integrated systems - in other words complete assemblies with bags, filters, connectors and valves. At present companies often have to use multiple vendors to put together systems and assemble on-site, but Millipore's goal is to provide a complete portfolio of products as a 'one-stop-shop'. "We're coming out this year with a number of new products and assemblies which will quite be competitive and unique," said a Millipore representative. One such new product is MilliProbe, an in-process early warning system for detecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa contamination in bioprocess systems. At the moment this product is in customer trials. Millipore is expanding capacity at its manufacturing facility in Danvers, Massachusetts, in order to make sure its disposables business can keep pace with demand.