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Champions 2.0


March 12, 2007

Dennis Gilbert, Ph.D.Applied Biosystems
Dennis Gilbert, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer

How has your company adapted and responded to the changing economic climate in the past five years when so many others companies did not?

One of the major economic changes was the flattening of funding for basic research. We responded by focusing our product development efforts in the applied uses of the technology where we are seeing an increase in activity and investment. This includes DNA forensics, QA/QC applications in pharma and healthcare companies, biosecurity, and clinical trials. We also worked to bring more flexibility to our instrument systems and expanded our line of low-to-medium throughput systems (e.g., for real-time PCR) to support these emerging markets. And, we continue to maintain a broad and deep product portfolio, which serves this expanding customer base.

What is your vision for the future of the life sciences market over the next several years?

I believe we will continue to see a transition from large discovery projects to more focused projects that are really driven by understanding the biology of disease. The latter involves a much broader base of scientists, and with increasing amounts of data and tools available to researchers, even novice users will be able to generate enormous amounts of data. That data increasingly will need to be analyzed, visualized, and shared along the continuum of basic, clinical, and applied research, meaning we need to continue to ensure our products are geared to the end-users, not necessarily the technologists.

What products and services does your company provide and what special capabilities do they offer the life sciences market?

Over the past 25 years, Applied Biosystems has developed the industry’s largest, most comprehensive, and most integrated portfolio of life sciences tools. These include instrument-based systems, consumables, software, and services for molecular and cell biology, proteomics, and applied markets such as forensics, biosecurity, and quality and safety testing in food and the environment. We are currently the leading provider of DNA analysis technologies, including instruments for sequencing and real-time PCR, and genomic assays for gene expression and genotyping, as well as of mass spectrometry systems for small molecule and proteomic analysis.

Partnerships are an effective way to track life science advances and ensure that your company delivers timely products and services. Which life sciences companies or organizations have you partnered with or invested in and why?

We invest in and partner with a broad range of organizations to gain access to the most promising next generation technologies and to work with leading global scientists. Two examples of recent strategic partnerships are our involvement in the Microsoft BioIT Alliance to ensure scientists have access to easy-to-use software tools, and our Software Development Community, which is dedicated to creating open-source tools for third-party developers. We have also made strategic investments in new sequencing and molecular detection technologies by investing in Visigen and Eagle Research & Development, and by acquiring Agencourt Personal Genomics and the research products division of Ambion.

What are your most exciting products and initiatives in development, and how will they improve life science research?

Next generation sequencing is probably the technology that has the highest potential to radically change the way people will conduct research. The throughput and price-points possible with these next generation technologies will enable us to do things we couldn’t even imagine a few years back. And, what we’re really excited about are the things we don’t even know about yet. We do know that new applications, such as rare mutation identification and ultra-sensitive gene expression analysis, will now be possible, which will open up new avenues for discovery and complement the applications for traditional Sanger capillary electrophoresis (CE) sequencing.

Where do you see your company in five years?

I anticipate that we will be continuing to develop and market best-in-class technologies and innovating around applications to advance important basic, clinical, and applied research applications. We want to have not only the best platforms for sequencing and mass spectrometry, for example, but also the best applications for, among other things, human identification and ADME/Tox studies to run on these systems.  We also intend to continue our strategy of investing in both internal and external development programs, with a balanced portfolio of early-stage research programs as we continue to innovate new applications for our more mature technologies.

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