PerkinElmer Expects to Make Acquisitions After $500M Business Sale: CEO Talks Boston-Area Talent and Growth in Software, Imaging

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behind us. Going forward, I would say that there’s a 65 percent chance that the economy will continue on a relatively modest growth trajectory. So we’ll see a relatively slow pullout from the recession of last year. Then I think you’ve got a 10 or 15 percent chance that we’ll go back down into a double-dip, but I would put that at a one in 10 chance. Then I think there’s a similar type of probability that we would see a more rapid increase.

X: Which technologies are transforming the way scientists do research and why?

RF: I would say that one of the areas where innovation is really changing the way people do research is the imaging area, and particularly around the in vivo imaging area. That was behind our motivation to acquire VisEn recently. We think that aspects of the VisEn technology will allow our customers to use similar reagent and imaging technology in the pre-clinical setting as well as all the way into the clinic, because you can do some interesting things from a modular in vivo imaging perspective.

Historically, when people did drug discovery research, they were using high throughput screening. Now there’s a desire to not only understand what’s going on outside the cell, in essence whether the cells are binding, but in essence understanding what’s going on inside the cell. Of course, there’s a lot of work around the pathways and understanding how the prospective drug works on the pathways. To do that, you really need to have fairly sophisticated imaging to go inside the cell. Another aspect of this is looking at live cells, so you can actually image the cell while the cell is alive.

X: As CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, what keeps you up at night?

RF: The direction of the global economic environment, I would say, kept me up more towards late 2009 to early 2010 than it does now. Like we talked about before, I do feel like we’re pulling out of this thing, so there is some aspect of that. The other thing is making sure that you have the right leaders in place. You think about running and overseeing a large global organization and a lot of technology involved. It really gets down to having very good people working for you, and so I spend a lot of time making sure that we’re developing and retaining the right leaders.

X: How does operating in the Boston area help the company recruit and retain talented people?

RF: I think Boston is a terrific location for talent. It starts out with great universities, so you have a great pool of talent coming out of certain schools. And then, of course, it’s a very good place to live. I think it’s a great place to have a technology-based company.

X: Why would a talented person graduating from a top school in the Boston area want to work for PerkinElmer?

RF: I think it’s a couple of things. First of all, if you look at what PerkinElmer does, in human and environmental health, I think when you come to PerkinElmer you can feel terrific about what we’re doing as a company. Whether it’s screening newborns where we’re saving 32 babies lives a day, to the point where our products are being used to hopefully discover new cures for cancer, to the point where our products are being used to monitor the water supply in Hong Kong to make sure that the water is pure.

The second aspect of it is the culture at PerkinElmer makes this a great place for people, because you get an opportunity to learn. There’s an emphasis on technology and innovation. And I think we want to have people who are entrepreneurial but also want the security of working in a large company. And then when you think about the breadth of PerkinElmer, not only from a technology perspective but from a globalization perspective, it gives a young person an opportunity to see a lot of technologies, businesses and geographic regions.

X: One of your business areas is software. Is that an area where you see a lot of growth?

RF: Software is becoming increasingly important, not only on the products that we provide today, but in the future. What you’re finding in a lot of detection modalities is that the real differentiation from a product perspective is your ability to take the images of what is being detected and convert that to algorithms. The products that have the better software interfaces are usually the ones that do well. Then there’s the aspect of trying to pull all the data together, whether it’s in an environmental lab or a pharmaceutical R&D lab. So I think software will be a bigger part of PerkinElmer’s business on a going-forward basis than it is today.

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