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Q&A with Peer Schatz, CEO, Qiagen
Since 1986, Qiagen has developed and marketed a range of products for academic and industrial markets, including life science research, genomics, gene-based drug discovery, nucleic acid-based molecular diagnostics, genetic vaccination, and gene therapy markets. Recently, Peer Schatz, president and CEO took a few moments out of his busy schedule —which he splits between offices in Germany and Maryland—to talk with DDN Chief Editor Chris Anderson about the company and its future in the drug discovery market. Here are some selected comments:
DDN: What changes are happening in the market that will benefit Qiagen?
Schatz: If you look at drug discovery a few years ago, toxicology was not necessarily heavily relying on DNA or RNA tools. Now you are seeing tools such as toxicogenomics emerge where you are looking at certain toxicology profiles based on genetic messages or predispositions. These types of trends (are evident) all through the clinical development chain and you can see that more and more people are looking at pharmacogenetics or pharmacogenomics capabilities to enhance the value of their drug development.
So this has created a tremendous need for standardized processing of these thousands and thousands of samples that people take during trials to insure that no mistake is made in the collection, stabilization and purification processes.
DDN: If you mention to researchers the name Qiagen, what do they think of and how would you like that to change?
Schatz: Qiagen is one of the best-known brand names in molecular biology. It is not necessarily because we are better, but it is simply because we have a razor-sharp focus. We are associated with an application in a most direct way.
So when people think about taking samples and purifying samples, they think of it almost as the Qiagen process. In that space, we are almost 20 times larger than anybody else and that has to do with the standardization value we bring to the table.
So going forward, we believe that in there is tremendous value of using these standardized techniques in the drug development area. We want to educate our customers on how well we fit into that area also, especially based on the new FDA pronouncements on pharmacogenomics. That is going to a key effort for us this year.
DDN: What can people expect to see from Qiagen for new products?
Schatz: I think we will see increased use of these next generation approaches pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics and other molecular biology-driven trends, such as personalized medicine or use of molecular biology in toxicology. These are in the process of dramatically changing the way pharmaceutical companies are going about doing their research and clinical work. This means they will be looking for help in how to understand certain trends and how to ensure they can create maximum value without going into the details of the science in many areas. So our products will (be made to) take the science out of the product. In other words, make systems that are push-button ready and extremely robust from the outside and make it easy to adopt.
DDN: What are the biggest challenges you face?