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Globe-trotting Coggins Settles in at PerkinElmer

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Calling Peter Coggins’ first three weeks at PerkinElmer a whirlwind would be an understatement. One week was a previously planned vacation, and the other two were spent shuttling around the globe as Coggins, the company’s new president of life sciences, met the employees. He covered all five of the North American sites the first week and spent the second week in Europe visiting sites in Brussels, Holland, and Cambridge. “I’m going to Japan tomorrow,” he says on his second day at Boston headquarters. In fact, he’d been so excited about seeing his own digs that he showed up for work at 6:00 that morning, only to find that his office was locked and he had no key to get in.

At 53, Coggins is very familiar with the industry. He’s spent the last 29 years in life sciences, just 10 of them outside of Amersham, where he was most recently executive vice president of global sales and marketing. He began his career with what would become Amersham back in 1973, and laughs as he recalls that his main competitor at the time was NEN, now a division of PerkinElmer Life Sciences. Coggins did leave Amersham for a time and worked for Labsystems and ICN Biomedical before rejoining the company in 1994 to help move the life sciences unit to Pharmacia Biotech. “I’d always liked Amersham,” he says. “I got very rapid promotions and [learned] a lot at a relatively young age.” Throughout his career, Coggins shuttled back and forth between the US and UK and finally in 1997 decided to make a permanent move to the US, applying for his green card and giving up the frequent cross-Atlantic flights.

Eventually, Coggins realized his goal was to run his own division. “One of the reasons I wanted to leave Amersham was I wasn’t in total charge of the business,” he says. At PerkinElmer, “I’m accountable for delivering the operating profit for [the life sciences] strategic business unit. … I like to roll up my sleeves and get out there.”

In the past, PerkinElmer — especially its life sciences unit — has been known for its empire-building strategy. Coggins expects that to continue under his watch. “If the right opportunities arise, we’re going to be interested in [acquisitions],” he says. His job is to get customers what they need, he says, “and if you could expedite that by acquiring IP or technology or even companies, I’d rather go that way.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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