PerkinElmer CEO arranges marriage between informatics, lab service biz

PerkinElmer ($PKI) has broken into the informatics field in a big way over the past year or so, and some people have wondered how the company known for providing lab instruments and reagents was going to adapt to the software business.

Well, it turns out that PerkinElmer envisions a future in which biopharma labs integrate informatics systems and instruments in a seamless fashion, and the Waltham, MA-based company plans to roll up its software capabilities into its lab services business to reflect that vision. And the plan could mean that PerkinElmer would compete with major IT services outfits such as Cognizant for business from major biopharma laboratories.

During a presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco on Jan. 11, PerkinElmer CEO Rob Friel showed analysts and industry members a chart of the company's four main business areas that put services and informatics into a single bucket. It could be a natural fit for PerkinElmer. The company has bought up several lab software outfits in recent years, and does upkeep on instruments in labs that also run software developed by those outfits.

"Now we have the ability to take the service and the informatics and it provides us with some real differentiation from other service providers," Friel said during his presentation.

U.S. drug giant Merck ($MRK), Friel said, has about 70 PerkinElmer workers from its OneSource unit that maintain the research tools and lab equipment in its labs. And PerkinElmer has begun combining the services it offers with informatics support.

Together, PerkinElmer's lab service and informatics businesses account for a quarter of the company's $2.1 billion in annual revenue.

PerkinElmer could benefit from an uptick in the number of biopharma groups outsourcing functions that don't need to be done internally. Drugmakers have been grappling with upheaval in the industry, with patents expiring on top drugs and healthcare payers balking on reimbursing them for expensive meds, and they are farming out duties like IT support and clinical development in the name of fiscal discipline and operational efficiency.

In an interview with FierceBiotech IT, Michael Stapleton, general manager of PerkinElmer Informatics, said his unit—which includes the assets from the company's buyouts of CambridgeSoft, ArtusLabs and Labtronics—is the world's largest provider of electronic laboratory notebooks, with a greater market share than rivals such as U.K.-based IDBS and San Diego-based Accelrys ($ACCL). Yet with the service offering, the group would support software from other companies as well as PerkinElmer's applications.

As a brief aside, Stapleton and many members of the informatics team are former CambridgeSoft employees who joined PerkinElmer via the CambridgeSoft buyout in March 2011, and the informatics group is now based in former CambridgeSoft offices in Cambridge, MA. He says the company will roll out the informatics service offering sometime this year.

PerkinElmer could benefit from the uptick in biopharma outsourcing activity we've seen. Drugmakers have been grappling with upheaval in their industry, with patents expiring on top drugs and healthcare payers balking on reimbursing them for expensive meds. To cut costs and streamline their operations, drug companies are farming out duties like IT support, clinical development and manufacturing. 

We'll see whether pharma companies go for the informatics service offering, which seems like a natural progression for PerkinElmer as it strives to find new ways for its new software acquisitions to complement its core lab instrument and analysis expertise. - Ryan McBride (twitter | email)