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Looking to Increase Sales of Opera System, PerkinElmer Pushes Lower-Priced LX

PerkinElmer plans to sell a less-expensive version of its newly acquired Opera technology, the Opera LX, CEO Greg Summe said during the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call last week.
“One of the things we need to do is take the price down on the Opera, and so we have got an R&D project that significantly takes costs and makes that a lower-priced model,” Summe said.
Company officials said the LX costs between 16 percent and 37 percent below the “full-blown” Opera system.
Richard Eglen, PerkinElmer’s vice president and general manager of drug discovery research, reagents, and cellular imaging and analysis, said that Summe was referring to “the synergies between PerkinElmer and Evotec, in that we can now manufacture the Opera in our existing manufacturing plant in the UK.”
“That will reduce cost of instrument development and streamline the process,” he said, adding that “we anticipate that by early next year, the manufacturing will be transitioned completely to the UK.”
The Opera platform was originally sold by Evotec Technologies, which PerkinElmer acquired in January. It is now sold as part of PerkinElmer’s Life and Analytical Sciences division.
PerkinElmer believes that the high-content instrumentation market, of which the Opera LX is a part, will reach a saturation point soon, Gabriele Gradl, a product leader for high-content screening at PerkinElmer’s Hamburg facility, told CBA News this week.
But the company also believes the market could use lesser-priced systems that may not match the speed of the Opera system but offer comparable resolution, she said.
PerkinElmer’s first step towards meeting that need was the launch of the Opera LX at Drug Discovery Technology 2007 exhibition in Boston in August, said Gradl (see CBA News, 8/10/07). The Opera LX has basically the same technology as the Opera, a point-scan confocal system with high resolution. 

“I think that Greg [Summe] is probably speaking to the Opera LX and the synergies between PerkinElmer and Evotec.”

Gradl said the LX is “maybe 50 percent slower than the Opera, because it does sequential image acquisition as opposed to parallel image acquisition.”
She added that “most” of the assays that HCS users can run on their Opera platforms can also be run on the Opera LX. “So it is kind of an introductory system that is 50 percent to 60 percent of the price of the full-blown Opera,” explained Gradl.
Although many customers report that they like the Opera, they also say that they must operate within budget constraints, often within the amount of $500,000, the price tag for an LX system including installation and training, Gradl said. By comparison, the original Opera sells for between $600,000 and $800,000, depending on options. 
Both the original Opera and the LX can be used for the same applications, Gradl said. “On that point, the Opera LX can be used for secondary screens and target validation activities,” Eglen said. “The original Opera is very much a high-throughput screening instrument.”
In general, PE views the use of imaging throughout the entire drug discovery process as an area where it sees its instruments going, Eglen said. “We are planning to develop a very broad-based instrument approach for drug discovery and life sciences and the Opera platform and the Opera LX are two of our recently announced moves in this direction,” he said.

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