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Two’s a cloud
June 2011
by Amy Swinderman  |  Email the author
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WALTHAM, Mass.—In support of its growing offerings in next-generation DNA sequencing and analysis services, PerkinElmer Inc. last month acquired Geospiza Inc., a leading developer of software systems for the management of genetic analysis and laboratory workflows delivered through a web-based, secure cloud computing environment.
 
Financial terms of the acquisition, announced May 5, were not disclosed, but the deal makes permanent a multiyear license agreement the companies announced in February for Geospiza's GeneSifter Lab Edition and GeneSifter Analysis Edition software products.
 
GeneSifter Lab Edition is used by laboratories around the globe to track sample processing and deliver data back to researchers for analysis, while GeneSifter Analysis Edition is used by researchers to analyze next-generation sequencing data and to discover the actionable knowledge within their experiments.
 
Bringing Geospiza into PerkinElmer's expanding fold will deliver an end-to-end solution that provides scientists access to sequencing services and robust analysis and visualization software—offered through significant capability around cloud computing, says Dr. Richard Begley, president of PerkinElmer's Emerging Technologies division. Making sense of the unprecedented volumes of data generated by next-generation sequencing and other biological measurements is critical to improving drug discovery, and Geospiza's software enables "anytime, anywhere" genomic data interpretation and analysis, Begley adds.
 
Begley explains that the acquisition is part of PerkinElmer's "systematic program of expanding our presence in the world of DNA."
 
"We decided not to do that with hardware, as there are too many competitors in that space," Begley says. "It 's also very expensive to develop software. Our customers wanted a combination of sequencing services and analysis anyway, so that formed the basis of our partnership. One thing led to another, and it became clear that we should get married."
 
The deal follows several recent PerkinElmer acquisitions intended to boost its offerings in DNA preparation and bioinformatics. In February, the company acquired chemagen Biopolymer-Technologie AG, a German provider of automated nucleic acid isolation. A month later, PerkinElmer announced it will acquire software and database company CambridgeSoft Corp. and completed its purchase of software firm ArtusLabs Inc. in agreements totaling $220 million.
 
"Those acquisitions added to the traditional PerkinElmer businesses in DNA, as they were separate from DNA sequencing and bioinformatics," Begley says. "We knew we needed to seriously beef ourselves up in DNA. I can't emphasize enough that when dealing with human health especially, and sequencing genes, the last thing you want is shoddy data or sequencing. We're taking enormous pains to build our reputation in the market. I think people have always felt that way about Geospiza."
 
Geospiza—whose clients include biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, universities, researchers, contract core and diagnostic service laboratories involved in genetic testing and manufacturing biotherapeutics—recognizes that genomic information is becoming increasingly important in understanding and treating disease, says Rob Arnold, the company's president.
 
"I tell our scientists at Geospiza that very often, all of the knowledge required to do a job doesn't necessarily reside in one head," Arnold says. "PerkinElmer shares that same mission, but now we have access to a more global organization and leadership." When dealing with DNA, RNA and proteins, a lot of different data points and measure points are being collected, and the ability to package that and present it in a logical and actionable way is something Geospiza is putting an enormous amount of energy and focus into, says Arnold.
 
"If we 're really going to get serious about genomics, we have to tackle that problem," he says. "You can have teams of people, racks of computers and the high overhead of doing this work—but you have to transform this into something actionable, and do it cost-effectively. The cloud is not used to aid in that process, but it makes it economically viable to do in a thoughtful and distributed way. The main premise of our company is to enable people to tackle this work in a systemic way."

The cloud can be deployed in a lot of different ways, Arnold notes: "You can either have individual teams in different locations or multiple teams working together," he says. PerkinElmer will retain Geospiza's facilities and employees in Seattle—expanding the company's geographic reach in the Pacific Northwest—"until we get so rich and famous that we have to expand," Begley says. Until then, the company will consider applying Geospiza's capabilities to its other diverse businesses, he adds.

"The world wants to know more about DNA, proteins and the environmental effects of metabolites. We will look at expanding these capabilities across many other parts of our human health business. Later on, we may apply this to environmental health and discuss whether to add sequencing for plants," Begley says.
 
Code: E061109

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