Peer Schatz, CEO of Qiagen N.V., says he's not a fan of building companies through acquisition. But since he took over the helm in 2004, the sample and assay technologies company has been one of the most active buyers in the space, acquiring 16 companies in the last five years. His point is an acquirer must first have an underlying capability to innovate, and that acquisitions have to plug into that core competency.

In Qiagen's case, Schatz said the core competency and strategy is in the transformation of raw biology from the sample processing steps - collection, stabilization, logistics, isolation and purification - through to the assay, including detection.