Agilent Technologies said today it has acquired Cobalt Light Systems for £40 million ($51.5 million) cash, in a deal the buyer says will enhance its value to biopharma customers by expanding into the fast-growing Raman spectroscopy segment.

Headquartered in Oxfordshire, U.K., with offices in Reston, VA, and Hong Kong, privately held Cobalt is a provider of Raman spectroscopic instruments for the pharmaceutical industry, applied market, and public safety.

Cobalt’s benchtop and handheld/portable Raman spectroscopic instruments are based on proprietary technologies designed to enable through-barrier identification of chemicals and materials. By enabling measurement through opaque barriers and surfaces, Cobalt’s instruments are designed to analyze whole tablets or inside sealed containers, reducing the need for quarantines and sample processing and testing in pharmaceutical quality control, hazardous chemical identification, and security.

Raman spectroscopy instruments are intended to address the limited capacities of conventional solutions for detecting materials through sealed, nontransparent containers—a circumstance that constrains them to near-surface identification of materials such as pharma tablet coatings and containers.

The market for Raman spectroscopy is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2016 to $1.8 billion by 2021 from, according to BCC Research, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% during the period.

Cobalt’s customers include more than 20 of the largest 25 global pharmaceutical companies, as well as more than 75 airports across Europe and Asia-Pacific.

“This is exactly the type of acquisition that Agilent’s strategy calls for—one that expands our market share and provides immediate benefits to our customers,” Patrick Kaltenbach, president of Agilent’s Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group, said in a statement. “We’re focused on delivering best-in-class solutions to our customers, and Cobalt’s Raman spectroscopy product and team meet and exceed that criterion.”

Added Cobalt’s CEO Paul Loeffen: “The combination of Cobalt’s patented technologies with Agilent’s product-development expertise, manufacturing capabilities, channels, and customer base will allow us to scale our operations to take advantage of this rapidly growing market.”

Loeffen will remain with Agilent as its director of Raman spectroscopy. Agilent will remain in Oxford, where Cobalt employed 52 people, and base its global center for Raman spectroscopy there.

Founded in 2008 as a spinout from the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Cobalt has received numerous awards that include The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2015 and the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award in 2014.

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