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PerkinElmer Leverages Recent Buys To Launch Assay Development Business

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Following a series of rapid acquisitions in the cell-based assay market, PerkinElmer this week launched a new assay development service that indicates that these new product lines are successfully being integrated into the company’s broader portfolio.
 
The service will use a mix of legacy PerkinElmer products as well as those from EuroScreen, which the company acquired last December, and will focus on cell-based assays for G-protein coupled receptors and kinases.
 
The service will be based on the company’s proprietary AlphaScreen, DELFIA, and LANCE technologies, as well the AequoScreen platform that PerkinElmer acquired from EuroScreen. The service will also provide miniaturization of ELISA assays using PerkinElmer’s proprietary AlphaLISA platform.  
 
Richard Eglen, vice president and general manager of discovery and research reagents for PerkinElmer’s Life and Analytical Sciences unit, told CBA News this week that PerkinElmer has moved the manufacturing of its cell lines to one of its two facilities in Montreal, Canada.
 
PerkinElmer plans to do most of its GPCR assay development at EuroScreen’s facility in Gosselies, Belgium, which employs 20 people. In addition, one of PerkinElmer’s Montreal R&D facilities has been developing GPCR assays for the LANCE Ultra and AlphaLISA platforms and will continue to do so.
 
Both assay development groups fall under PerkinElmer’s Reagent Research and Development umbrella.   
 
Developing a Development Business
 
According to Eglen, the decision to launch the assay development service arose from a combination of several factors, but was driven by requests from customers to introduce an assay development service to round out its menu of offerings.
 
He noted that the firm is well equipped for the offering because it had already been doing custom assay development for its AlphaLISA products. In addition, the company’s OneSource group can service all of a customer’s instruments, not just those bought from PerkinElmer, he said.
 
As PerkinElmer continues to build the service, it will focus on GPCRs, kinases, and biomarker assay development.
 
Aequorin Acquisition
 
When PerkinElmer acquired EuroScreen last December, it acquired not just EuroScreen’s aequorin technology, but also a group that was very good at cell-line assay development, particularly in the area of GPCRs, Eglen said (see CBA News, 12/22/06).
 
EuroScreen specializes in GPCR assays based on the aequorin calcium-sensitive luminescent photoprotein. It exclusively licensed the core technology from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, and markets the assays under the AequoScreen name. Euroscreen sells cell lines and membranes expressing GPCRs and aequorin, and provides assay protocols for these technologies.
 
GPCRs are one of the most investigated and exploited drug target families. PerkinElmer believes that GPCR targets comprise between 30 and 40 percent of drug screening programs. Some industry reports have estimated that figure may be more than 40 percent, and that GPCRs are targets for more than 50 percent of all currently marketed pharmaceuticals.
 

As PerkinElmer continues to build the service, it will focus on GPCRs, kinases, and biomarker assay development.

“There are two reasons for this,” Eglen told CBA News last year when PerkinElmer announced the acquisition. “One is that GPCRs are a very druggable class of targets. But related to that, there are new ideas about how GPCRs function that appear to be opening up new ways to designing new therapeutics.”

 
A Growing Footprint
 
PerkinElmer recently widened its GPCR footprint further by signing an agreement with Milan, Italy-based Axxam at the end of May, under which the companies plan to research and develop GPCR and ion-channel cell lines based on Axxam’s Photina technology for use in high-throughput screening and compound profiling applications (see CBA News, 5/25/07).
 
The deal also made PerkinElmer the exclusive worldwide distributor of the Photina technology, thereby strengthening its position in the GPCR screening market, according to Eglen.
 
Eglen told CBA News at the time that the agreement builds on PerkinElmer’s acquisition of EuroScreen and its AequoScreen photoprotein technology.
 
“The ability to commercialize Photina at this time rounds off our offerings in the luminescent photoprotein technology market,” Eglen said.
 
Eglen said at the time that the R&D portion of the Axxam alliance will allow PerkinElmer to extend its screening platforms from GPCRs and kinases to ion channels. He said the company felt this is an important direction to take because the current market for Ca2+ GPCRs and ion channel screening is estimated to be approximately $45 million.
 
Eglen also said that PerkinElmer perceives the demand for luminescent assays to be growing by more than 20 percent annually. He declined to elaborate.
 
"In conjunction with Axxam, PerkinElmer plans to offer assay development services using the Photina technology," said a company spokesperson.