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Q&A: Dr. Karl Hecker, director, PerkinElmer Center of Excellence
February 2006


In January, PerkinElmer Inc. (PKI) announced the appointment of Dr. Karl Hecker as director of R&D for its Boston-based Center of Excellence. Hecker comes to PKI from Invitrogen and brings over 20 years of scientific experience in chemistry and biochemistry applications. Executive Editor Randall C Willis recently spoke with Hecker about his new role at PKI and the industry in general.
DDN: In joining PerkinElmer, where do you believe you can have the greatest impact?
Hecker: PKI is already known as a leader in the development and manufacture of instrumentation and reagents, and recent business decisions by the company underscore its commitment to advancing molecular medicine through innovative instrumentation and reagent kits and solutions. As someone who has spent most of his scientific career developing chemistry and biochemistry applications for industry, I hope to be able to contribute strong domain knowledge in order to support PKI's proteomics, genomics and life sciences research businesses.
DDN: What do you see as your first priorities at the PKI Center of Excellence?
Hecker: Recruiting the talent that will allow us to further build our competencies in kit and reagent development in support of the areas listed above.
DDN: What technology areas do you expect to bear the most fruit in the coming years?
Hecker: Continued efforts in discovering and validating molecular biomarkers that will change the way we will not only look at, but also how we will implement and interpret, molecular medicine. The technology areas that I expect to bear the most fruit in the coming years will be those of detection methods and reagents for discovery and diagnostics in the areas of women's health, central nervous system disease, and cancer research.
DDN: The life and analytical science market seems to be in a period of intense flux, with several small companies and technology platforms being acquired by the bigger players. To what factors do you ascribe all this activity?
Hecker: The market certainly is a market that is in intense flux, which is often driven by innovative, ground-breaking and game-changing technological developments. Often a new technology needs to reach a certain maturity and acceptance in the scientific community before larger companies start feeling comfortable in assessing the risk associated with bringing the technology to the customer. Serious players like PerkinElmer, with their well established manufacturing, quality control—as well as far-reaching distribution channels, sales organizations and customer and product support functions—are exceptionally well-positioned to commercialize new technologies and bring them to the end users at the lowest possible price due to a number of factors, including scientific expertise and by leveraging the economies of scale.  
DDN: Last year, Nikon Instruments' Stan Schwartz suggested that the industry needs niche companies to produce technologies on which larger companies are unable to focus. What are your thoughts?
Hecker: Certainly, I agree with Stan Schwartz's statement that the industry—any industry, actually—needs small, niche companies. The relationship between niche and big-market companies is complementary. I also want to point out that one can find the functional equivalent of niche companies within larger corporations. Feasibility programs, for example, or any program in a large company that is geared toward the development of innovative technologies, can serve the same market purpose as smaller or niche companies. The driving force behind all technological advances—whether they're coming from niche companies or large, established entities—is the innovative and creative potential and spirit of the people within.
Code: E020611



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