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Optics specialist Bookham focuses on life sciences
January 2005
by Randall C Willis  | 
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SAN JOSE, Calif.—In late 2004, Bookham New Focus introduced the Clarity line of fluorescence filters, developed for use in analytical and diagnostic instruments, including fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, DNA sequencing, microarrays, and other fluorescence applications. In doing so, the optics-specialist formally entered the increasingly competitive life science branch of the photonics market, leveraging decades of experience in the telecommunications industry.
 
"Bookham New Focus has supplied products to the life sciences industry for many years," says Herman Chui, Bookham's director of product marketing. "This is the first time, however, that it has developed products targeted specifically at this market. Bookham has taken this step because it found a market need in life sciences for high-contrast, high-reliability filters that was very compatible to Bookham's core optical competencies in filters."
 
Bookham's entry into the life science market is just the latest in a series of such moves by related firms. According to Chui, photonics is a key technology for life sciences in both drug development and medical diagnosis.
 
"In drug development, for example, photonics enables high-specificity, high-throughput screening for identification of drug targets and genetic screening of subjects," he explains. "As drug development costs continue to increase, greater emphasis is placed on the early stages of drug development to increase the success rate in later stages, thereby driving growth
in analytical techniques and photonics."
 
And the numbers bear him out. Photonics Research Ontario recently projected the global biophotonics market in 2005 would reach $8 billion, up from just $1.2 billion in 2000.
In the opinion of Stan Schwartz, VP of product marketing at Nikon Instruments, the entry of new companies into the biophotonics market is good for the industry.
 
"The big guys have huge R&D and development plans," he explains. "But all of these industries absolutely depend on the smaller niche companies that can focus on a specific technology, can move very quickly, and see the trees through the forest.
 
"In the end, it's their function to produce technologies that the large companies would not be able to focus on, and then either be acquired or license that technology," Schwartz adds.
But in Chui's opinion, Clarity filters are an example of how Bookham is leveraging core optical competencies across markets.
 
The company produced the filters in collaboration with its Thin Film Products group, which developed proprietary technology that enables the deposition of highly complex, many-layered coatings that result in filters with high contrast or signal-to-noise performance. This enables rapid fluorescence measurements and higher instrument throughput, greatly increasing productivity for OEMs and their customers, and has allowed the company to diversify into new markets.
 
Code: E220105

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