Two’s a cloud

PerkinElmer acquires Geospiza, a leading developer of cloud computing software

Amy Swinderman
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WALTHAM, Mass.—In support of its growing offerings innext-generation DNA sequencing and analysis services, PerkinElmer Inc. lastmonth acquired Geospiza Inc., a leading developer of software systems for themanagement of genetic analysis and laboratory workflows delivered through aweb-based, secure cloud computing environment.
Financial terms of the acquisition, announced May 5, werenot disclosed, but the deal makes permanent a multiyear license agreement thecompanies announced in February for Geospiza's GeneSifter Lab Edition andGeneSifter Analysis Edition software products.
GeneSifter Lab Edition is used by laboratories around theglobe to track sample processing and deliver data back to researchers foranalysis, while GeneSifter Analysis Edition is used by researchers to analyzenext-generation sequencing data and to discover the actionable knowledge withintheir experiments.
Bringing Geospiza into PerkinElmer's expanding fold willdeliver an end-to-end solution that provides scientists access to sequencingservices and robust analysis and visualization software—offered throughsignificant capability around cloud computing, says Dr. Richard Begley,president of PerkinElmer's Emerging Technologies division. Making sense of theunprecedented volumes of data generated by next-generation sequencing and otherbiological measurements is critical to improving drug discovery, and Geospiza'ssoftware enables "anytime, anywhere" genomic data interpretation and analysis,Begley adds.
Begley explains that the acquisition is part ofPerkinElmer's "systematic program of expanding our presence in the world ofDNA."
"We decided not to do that with hardware, as there are toomany competitors in that space," Begley says. "It's also very expensive todevelop software. Our customers wanted a combination of sequencing services andanalysis anyway, so that formed the basis of our partnership. One thing led toanother, and it became clear that we should get married."
The deal follows several recent PerkinElmer acquisitionsintended to boost its offerings in DNA preparation and bioinformatics. InFebruary, the company acquired chemagen Biopolymer-Technologie AG, a Germanprovider of automated nucleic acid isolation. A month later, PerkinElmerannounced it will acquire software and database company CambridgeSoft Corp. andcompleted its purchase of software firm ArtusLabs Inc. in agreements totaling$220 million.
"Those acquisitions added to the traditional PerkinElmerbusinesses in DNA, as they were separate from DNA sequencing andbioinformatics," Begley says. "We knew we needed to seriously beef ourselves upin DNA. I can't emphasize enough that when dealing with human healthespecially, and sequencing genes, the last thing you want is shoddy data orsequencing. We're taking enormous pains to build our reputation in the market.I think people have always felt that way about Geospiza."
Geospiza—whose clients include biotechnology andpharmaceutical companies, universities, researchers, contract core anddiagnostic service laboratories involved in genetic testing and manufacturingbiotherapeutics—recognizes that genomic information is becoming increasinglyimportant in understanding and treating disease, says Rob Arnold, the company'spresident.
"I tell our scientists at Geospiza that very often, all ofthe knowledge required to do a job doesn't necessarily reside in one head,"Arnold says. "PerkinElmer shares that same mission, but now we have access to amore global organization and leadership."
When dealing with DNA, RNA and proteins, a lot of differentdata points and measure points are being collected, and the ability to packagethat and present it in a logical and actionable way is something Geospiza isputting an enormous amount of energy and focus into, says Arnold.
"If we're really going to get serious about genomics, wehave to tackle that problem," he says. "You can have teams of people, racks ofcomputers and the high overhead of doing this work—but you have to transformthis into something actionable, and do it cost-effectively. The cloud is notused to aid in that process, but it makes it economically viable to do in athoughtful and distributed way. The main premise of our company is to enablepeople to tackle this work in a systemic way."

The cloud can be deployed in a lot of different ways, Arnoldnotes: "You can either have individual teams in different locations or multipleteams working together," he says.
PerkinElmer will retain Geospiza's facilities and employeesin Seattle—expanding the company's geographic reach in the PacificNorthwest—"until we get so rich and famous that we have to expand," Begleysays. Until then, the company will consider applying Geospiza's capabilities toits other diverse businesses, he adds.

"The world wants to know more about DNA, proteins and theenvironmental effects of metabolites. We will look at expanding thesecapabilities across many other parts of our human health business. Later on, wemay apply this to environmental health and discuss whether to add sequencingfor plants," Begley says.

Amy Swinderman

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