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Corporate Profile : Feb 15, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 4)

PerkinElmer Retools Its Strategic Mission

New Corporate Alignment Focuses on Human and Environmental Health
  • Carol Potera

Starting this year, PerkinElmer is aligning its business to focus on two strategic areas—human health and environmental health. The new emphasis better defines the strategic mission of the company and, at the same time, improves how it communicates the value it delivers to customers.
“The work we do makes a significant difference in many aspects of our world, whether it’s the quality of drinking water, how quickly new medical treatments come to market, or how safe and secure we feel in our homes,” says Robert Friel, president and CEO of PerkinElmer, headquartered in Waltham, MA.

Richard Perkin and Charles Elmer founded PerkinElmer in 1937 as an optical design and consulting company. In 1999, EG&G purchased the analytical instruments division of PerkinElmer. The company has a reputation as a collection of businesses that provide good technologies, ranging from chromatography instruments to screening tools for newborns. However, until now, its diverse holdings have lacked a strategic cohesiveness.

The human health business will develop diagnostics, tools, and applications to fight disease in order to provide better medical insights and more rapidly create critical new therapies. This business brings together the genetic screening, Bio-discovery, and medical imaging operating units. The environmental health business includes the company’s analytical sciences, laboratory sciences, and detection and illumination operating units. They will create safe products, more secure surroundings, and energy-efficient technologies.

Suites of products that are more outcome-and-result oriented are under development to strengthen the company’s new mission. “Rather than just selling tools and products, we want to deliver actual outcomes to help our customers,” says Friel. For instance, in addition to selling analytical instruments and reagents, PerkinElmer will develop protocols, software, and application notes to assist customers with different phases of a research project.

Customers will also see a new tagline, “For the Better,” which reflects the new identity and values of the company. The old tagline, “Precisely,” largely described how PerkinElmer instruments performed. As the company moves toward outcome-based and encompassing technologies, the new tagline better represents that goal. Customers will see better products for human and environmental health, including ones for water testing, food quality, consumer products, and medical treatments.

The new business plan was announced in Shanghai late last year, a location that has become increasingly important for the future of PerkinElmer. “As a global company, we have made significant investments in China to capture growth opportunities in the Pacific Rim,” says Friel. In fact, PerkinElmer’s CSO, Daniel Marshak, relocated to Shanghai to oversee the expansion of its technical center there.

Human Health Products

For researchers involved in academic, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical research, PerkinElmer has a large portfolio of technologies for cellular science analysis and research. “We have developed a series of reagent systems for key targets in critical disease areas, such as kinases and G-protein coupled receptors,” says Richard Eglen, president of the Bio-discovery division.

A large range of instruments for high-throughput screening (HTS) and optimization of drug candidates are also available for drug discovery, academic, and basic biotechnology research. These products “help drug discovery researchers to find more effective therapies faster,” says Eglen.

PerkinElmer launched an improved version of Volocity 5® software at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in November. This imaging and acquisition software suite “enables customers to look at cellular imaging in three dimensions and monitor changes in a cell as it responds over time,” Eglen says. Observing three-dimensional changes over time generates “fourth dimensional” data. Furthermore, these protocols can be saved for future use so that experiments that are repeated regularly can be identical each time. The Volocity software suite is popular with drug discovery and academic researchers.

PerkinElmer’s bead-based AlphaLISA™ technology is a tool for biomarker discovery. The high-throughput method improves on ELISA assays by eliminating wash steps and the need for radioactive labels, according to the company. AlphaLISA kits can screen a diverse range of molecular interactions across drug discovery, including small molecules, large molecules like proteins, and binding partners of greatly disparate sizes. AlphaLISA works well in crude biological fluids, including cell lysates, serum, and plasma. The assays run on small sample volumes, yet the analytical range often is 100 times greater than for ELISA. Additionally, AlphaLISA can be combined with SureFire™ technology (from TGR Biosciences) in cell-based assays that are used to measure receptor activation and responses of intracellular kinase inhibitors identified in drug discovery.

A high-content screening instrument called Opera™ is designed for cellular imaging. The Opera consists of a confocal microplate imaging reader for fully automated and simultaneous high-speed and high-resolution HTS. Opera works with Acapella™, a flexible image-analysis software to improve assay development and HTS processes. A new instrument, the Operatta, was recently released to provide maximum functionality in HCS on the smallest possible footprint.

Environmental Health Products

PerkinElmer’s EcoAnalytix™ initiative encompasses problem-solving technologies that address food and consumer product safety, water quality, and sustainable energy development. A key goal is to deliver analytical systems that combine applications, methodologies, standard operating procedures, and the training required for the specific analyses of food, consumer products, water, and biofuels. “Whether it’s tainted pet food, lead in toys, or contaminated drinking water, PerkinElmer can help scientists insure a healthy and safe environment,” says Friel.

To accomplish this, PerkinElmer adapted some of its precision instruments to perform specific applications. PerkinElmer released the EcoAnalytix Melamine Analyzer, based on the Clarus® 600 T gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, for the identification of melamine contamination in protein foods. The EcoAnalytix PlaySafe™ analyzer, based on the Optima inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer, verifies the amount of heavy metals such as lead in toys, cosmetics, and other consumer products.

For water analysis, the EcoAnalytix PAH Analyzer detects polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This analyzer is a preconfigured high-performance liquid chromatography-based platform. The EcoAnalytix trace metal water analyzer, a type of inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer, rapidly screens samples for 12 elements commonly regulated in drinking water.

Among the products for sustainable energy testing is the EcoAnalytix glycerin and residual alcohol biodiesel analyzer, another Clarus 500 gas chromatography-based system for the analysis of free and total glycerin and residual alcohol in biodiesel. This and similar products help manufacturers of biodiesel to test the quality of products to meet the standards set by the American Society for Testing Materials and the European Union. “We will continue to drive innovations in the human and environmental health areas,” says Friel.