Annual Report 2020

Beyond the Pandemic. Celebrating a goal or a home run in a packed stadium. Taking to the dance floor at a family wedding. Meeting friends for a drink or chatting with colleagues over lunch. The pleasures and freedoms we took for granted have been put on hold by a rampant virus that crossed all borders and brought normal life to a halt. And it reminded us of our mortality, our vulnerability.

Like the rest of the world, QIAGEN had to quickly adjust. We also reacted with agility and urgency to join the fight against the pandemic. We developed new tests in record time, and then produced them in mass quantities. We strove to help large numbers of people return to work safely and a semblance of normal life.

Internally, we adopted new ways to work and communicate. Externally, we had to stabilize our supply chains. Yet while we are COVID-relevant, we are not COVID-dependent.

As vaccination rates rise, a post-pandemic era is coming into view. And if another pandemic were to strike in the future, we have all learned valuable lessons and will be fully prepared. Times remain uncertain, but innovations are pointing ahead. Sometime soon, we’ll all be heading back out on to the dance floor, to the beach, on a long-distance journey – and to a life beyond the pandemic.

Our key figures

The year 2020 by the numbers

23% CER net sales increase to $1.87 billion
Adjusted EPS grew 52% to $2.17 CER
53% increase in free cash flow to $325 million
Adjusted operation margin increase to 34% from 28% in 2019.
>3,300 instruments placed in 2020
>500,000 customers served globally
“This pandemic has proven the crucial importance of molecular testing in the research and healthcare value chains.“ Thierry Bernard, Chief Executive Officer
To the CEO Letter
Insights Magazine 2021

Beyond the pandemic

Weightlessness research

Gravity, a constant force throughout the evolution of life on Earth, influences the architecture and function of cells, as well as entire organisms. In experiments performed on microgravity platforms, like parabolic flights with an Airbus A310 Zero G, scientists in Zurich are studying the impact of the Earth’s gravity on chromatin and gene expression regulation in immune cells. Their goal is to determine which molecules switch certain genes on or off under hypergravity and microgravity conditions, and if this reaction is encoded by the genes’ geometric position. These insights could tell us if humans are suited to living permanently in weightlessness, or under the different gravitational forces of other planets.

Warming the cold

Tundra soil of the northern hemisphere’s permafrost regions accounts for a mere 15% of the total global land mass, but contains roughly half of all carbon stored in our planet’s soil. Norwegian scientists have noted that warming over just 18 months stimulates rapid, microbe-mediated carbon decomposition, while experimental winter warming over five years fundamentally restructures microbial communities. This matters – alarmingly so – because it demonstrates that carbon loss in soil is unlikely to subside as a result of such changes in microbial community composition.

From stray dogs to space travel

Stray dogs in Chernobyl may offer a unique opportunity to reveal the secrets to success for interstellar travel. Biologists at the University of South Carolina, US, together with the Clean Futures Fund, are studying packs of dogs roaming the former site of the catastrophic 1986 nuclear reactor. The area remains contaminated with gamma radiation similar to that which astronauts would encounter in deep space. Examining changes in the animals’ genetics and microbiome, the study aims to uncover biological mechanisms that create tolerance to radiation effects, and which one day might help protect human space travelers.

Similar or identical?

Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg and possess exactly the same DNA sequences, but they are not as identical as previously assumed. According to researchers at the Iceland-based company deCODE, monozygotic twins accumulate genetic variation beginning at the earliest stages of development, meaning that one twin harbors variants that aren’t present in the other. The mutations occur as or before the inner cell mass in the uterine wall splits to form two separately developing embryos. The study suggests using the term “similar twins,” instead of identical twins.

Mozart in a musical molecule

Scientists at the ETH University, Zurich, stored the 52 pages of sheet music from Mozart’s string quartet “The Hunt” – more than 100 kilobytes of data – in 16,383 DNA sequences. Exploring the storage of data in synthetic DNA is a global trend: a tiny smear could hold 10,000 Gigabytes of data. But using the magic molecule to store data isn’t practical yet, because the process of synthesizing DNA in a lab, encoding it, and retrieving the data is expensive. The scientists in Zurich have developed what they call a “massively paralleled,” and thus cheaper, method to produce DNA strands at scale.

What is art?

In the case of Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait, one answer is the cellulose of the canvas support material, the ground layer of animal glue and gypsum, and the linseed oil layer. These compounds provide not just pleasure for the viewer but nutrients for microorganisms on a painting’s surface. Scientists at Vienna University studied the bacteria and fungi colonizing on a canvas with visible signs of biodeterioration, finding bacterial strains like Firmicutes and Proteobacteria, and fungi like Penicillium and Saccharomycetales. While art may nourish the soul, these microorganisms literally thrive on it, creating a microbiome as unique as the work of art itself.