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Epic developments are in the works
December 2009
by Amy Swinderman  |  Email the author
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CORNING, N.Y.—Widely considered leaders in the drug research and development tool arena, Corning Inc. and PerkinElmer Inc. are embracing the advent of label-free technology with a partnership aimed at delivering next-generation detection platforms for life science research.  
 
The strategic agreement, announced Oct. 28, combines the companies' expertise in optical label-free and multimodality detection and seeks to advance the development of next-generation, label-free technologies—tools that are targeted at addressing many of the challenges in early-stage lead optimization in the drug discovery process. Financial terms of the collaboration were not released.  
 
Specifically, Corning and PerkinElmer will develop a next-generation, multimode reader platform with label-free capabilities—technology that is becoming increasingly more popular among researchers and scientists who are seeking to minimize some of the costs, time and analysis hindrances inherent in early-stage lead optimization (see Label-free: The way to be?).  
 
Many scientists have been using Corning's Epic system and have been pleased with the biological discoveries enabled by the technology, says Ron Verkleeren, Corning's Epic business director. Epic is a high-throughput, label-free screening platform based on optical biosensor technology. The system performs both biochemical and cell-based drug discovery applications and offers drug developers the ability to evaluate promising new drug targets. It also allows for the observation of direct biological interactions not previously detectable in high-throughput applications.  
 
Now, with the addition of PerkinElmer's multimode detection capabilities, both companies' customers will be able to test out this advancing new technology, Verkleeren says.  
 
"When we launched our initiative in label-free technology, we did so with the hypothesis that it would have some benefit in the area of biomedical applications," Ron Verkleeren says. "What we found is that the technology has much broader applications than we anticipated. I think this collaboration is going to allow some of the investments we have made to have even more of a significant impact. By working together, you can often have a larger impact than any one organization can have. Combining our expertise with that of PerkinElmer is going to result in some very exciting products."  
 
Nance Hall, vice president and general manager of the Automation and Detection Solutions business at PerkinElmer, says the company does not see label-free technology as a total replacement over traditional research methods, but rather, a powerful complement to PerkinElmer's labeling technology.  
 
"In order to be able to continue as a market leader as a provider of solutions to this particular space, it is important that we are engaged across all development schemes," Hall says. We want to be able to offer both labeled and label-free technology in our detection and instrumentation capabilities because it offers the best of both worlds. We believe our researchers will be able to decide which technology works best for their particular research."  
 
The collaboration is one intended to help accelerate the evaluation and adoption of this new technology, Hall adds.  
 
"If evaluating a new technology has either a cost or single-mode barrier, it can be difficult to determine if you should use it," she says. "If you enable easier access, and make the technology cost-effective, you enable people to evaluate and implement it so that greater adoption may occur."  
 
Verkleeren acknowledges that although we are still in the very early days of label-free technology, it has the potential to look beyond what radiolabels and fluorescent assays have been able to achieve.
 
"Those assays are very good at looking at very specific interactions, while label-free technology gives you a more global look at interactions, almost enabling a systems biology perspective, if you will," he says. "If you look at Corning as a provider of plastic cell culture ware or general lab equipment, you could be perplexed as to why we're doing this. The truth of the matter is that Corning is all about inventing things. We believe that the inventions we are making around label-free technology are going to be important for the industry, and as a result, an area of high strategic importance for both us and PerkinElmer."
 
Code: E120915

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