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Q&A: Scott Garrett, CEO, Beckman Coulter
Beckman's acquisition of Coulter Corporation in October 1997 created the company as it is today, one of the largest providers of diagnostics and life science research products in the industry. Scott Garrett was named CEO of the company in February and recently took time for an exclusive interview with DDN Chief Editor Chris Anderson to share his vision of the industry and Beckman Coulter's path for the future.
DDN: How does Beckman Coulter maintain its competitive edge?
Garrett: I think we have several advantages over competitors who are either positioned strictly as a diagnostics companies or strictly as life sciences companies. We like to say Beckman Coulter is a biomedical testing company. It gives us a very steady and profitable business in diagnostics; and it also gives us a window to the future by being active in life sciences. The idea that a product designed and developed just for life sciences is somehow going to show up in the clinic one day is a rare event, if it is going to happen at all. We don't look at that as a strategy. So we like the idea of being positioned as a biomedical testing company, to have the ability, for example, to be developing new flow cytometry instrumentation in a way that we know we will have great applications for researchers but also will have a number of new tests and pplications for the clinic.
DDN: How do you leverage your leadership position?
Garrett: Leadership has lots of advantages. I think leaders can, in many ways, define the market and we are going to be defining it in a way that adds more and more capability to the instruments, systems and the information systems that go with them in the future.
Product development is [also] important. You have to maintain a fresh and current set of products and we are really committed to the core strategy we've had now for a few years which is "simplify, automate, innovate". But it also means we have to be constantly developing our products and introducing new generations of practically every product we make and be looking for new segments of biomedical testing we can enter with differentiated, capable products.
DDN: What areas of the market do you feel particularly well positioned to address?
Garrett: The drug discovery process has been a good example of simplify, automate, innovate. We've begun to industrialize what had been a very esoteric scientific process. So as we move forward, we see more rapid and quantitative comparison of abnormal states, normal states, new drug targets and screening of new drug candidates. I think the more detailed genetic, proteomic and cellular analysis of individuals, what is the personalized medicine trend, will first have repercussions in clinical trials. Those clinical trails over the next couple of years will increase our knowledge of the molecular basis of disease. That is the framework for improving what will become truly personalized medicine over the next decade or two. We are uniquely positioned to make that a reality and to clearly be working on that vision right now.
DDN: Do you think pharmaceutical companies are beginning to see this trend?
Garrett: I think the big pharma companies will be far more open and want to get his information. And the impression, from the outside, is that they have been very careful in how they set up their experiments to try to be all things to all patients. I think that if I were in their shoes I'd want to know exactly how these drugs affect all kinds of different individuals.
One of our strengths is that we are not attached to a drug company and I also don't have insights into their specific plans. But I would hope that they are thinking of getting blockbuster kinds of value from a more targeted and precise approach to providing the right drugs for the right patients in the right disease states. I would think you can do that and still have a lot of success financially.