The 2003 Readers' Choice Awards

"Give us the tools, and we will finish the job."

By | December 15, 2003

"Give us the tools, and we will finish the job."--Winston Churchill

Centrifuges, imaging systems, pipettes, PCR instruments, microscopes, and more--all indispensable components of the scientist's toolbox. They make science happen. Moreover, they make science compelling. Why else would television programs such as CSI and The X-Files devote so much screen time to such high-tech gadgetry?

Most labs have these things, and naturally, researchers have their preferences. So, like last year, we asked readers to choose their favorites. The result: the second annual Readers' Choice Awards.

We invited readers of The Scientist to choose their favorite instruments, kits, and gadgets; to click on the best Web sites, software, and book titles; and to applaud the best customer service they've seen this year. Voting took place on our Web site between Sept. 22 and Oct. 10. Tight races produced ties in two classifications, giving a grand total of 32 finalists in all 10 categories. Every winner of last year's competition returned for an encore in 2003 except one, software developer GraphPad.

The list of finalists reads like a Who's Who in the life sciences industry: Ambion, Amersham Biosciences, Applied Biosystems, Eppendorf, Gilson, Invitrogen, MJ Research, Promega, QIAGEN, Rainin, Roche Diagnostics, Thomson ISI ResearchSoft, and Carl Zeiss. They are joined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, as well as a collection of more familiar household names, including Adobe, Apple, Kodak, and Microsoft.

The finalists in the Best Science Book category reflect the interest in the story of DNA on this, the 50th anniversary of the structure's discovery. Two of the titles deal directly with that account: James D. Watson's autobiographical The Double Helix and Brenda Maddox's The Dark Lady of DNA, a biography of Rosalind Franklin. The third contender is Matt Ridley's Genome.

We announced the finalists in early November and will award the winners at a ceremony Dec. 15 in San Francisco, coinciding with the American Society of Cell Biology's annual meeting. Congratulations to all our finalists.



WINNER: Applied Biosystems GeneAmp PCR System 9700
Applications: PCR and cycle-sequencing reactions
US list price: $7,995
Employees: 4,480
Revenues: $1.68 billion in FY 2003
HQ: Foster City, Calif.
NYSE symbol: ABI


FINALIST: Eppendorf Centrifuge 5810R
Application: Refrigerated, bench-top centrifuge
US list price: $8,500, without rotor
Employees: about 1,620 in 2002
Revenues: €297.3 million in FY 2002
HQ: Hamburg, Germany


FINALIST: MJ Research PTC-100
Peltier Thermal Cycler
Applications: PCR and cycle-sequencing reactions
US list price: $3,995-$5,995
Employees: about 320
Revenues: about $50 million
HQ: Waltham, Mass.


"In the words of Tina Turner, the Zeiss Axioplan 2 is 'simply the best.'"
Keith Davidson, Department of Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge



WINNER: Carl Zeiss Axioplan 2 imaging
Application: Fluorescence microscopy
US list price: $35,000-$70,000
Employees: about 14,000
Revenues: almost €2.3 billion in 2001-2002
HQ: Oberkochen, Germany


FINALIST: Amersham Biosciences ÄKTA FPLC
Applications: Fast-performance liquid chromatography for protein purification
List price: £17,600-£23,500
Parent: Amersham
Employees: 10,051
Revenues: £1.62 billion in FY 2002
HQ: Buckinghamshire, UK
NYSE symbol: AHM


FINALIST: Eastman Kodak Image Station 2000R
Applications: Quantitative imaging of gels, plates, and membranes
US list price: $36,000
Employees: about 70,000
Revenues: $12.84 billion in FY 2002
HQ: Rochester, NY
NYSE symbol: EK


FINALIST: Applied Biosystems ABI PRISM 7900HT Sequence Detection System
Applications: High-throughput real-time PCR system, gene-expression analysis, and SNP detection
US list price: $90,000-$130,000 with automation accessory



WINNER: Carl Zeiss LSM 510 META Laser Scanning Microscope
Application: Multispectral, confocal microscopy
US list price: $340,000 and up



WINNER: Applied Biosystems ABI PRISM 3100 Genetic Analyzer
Applications: 16-capillary electrophoresis instrument for DNA sequencing and fragment analysis
US list price: $136,500


WINNER: Affymetrix GeneChip Scanner 3000
Applications: Microarray reader for gene-expression analysis, SNP detection, and DNA sequencing
US list price: $190,000
Employees: 900
Revenues: $289.9 million in FY 2002
HQ: Santa Clara, Calif.


"Scanning is excellent even on the very tiny chips (10 µm x 10 µm) and the resolution is higher than before. The size of the [GeneChip] scanner is also very convenient."
Taina M. Jaatinen, Red Cross Finland, Blood Service, Helsinki, Finland



WINNER: Adobe Photoshop
Applications: Photo editing and figure preparation
US list price: $649
Employees: 3,319 in 2002
Revenues: $1.17 billion in FY 2002
HQ: San Jose, Calif.


FINALIST: Microsoft PowerPoint
Applications: Slide preparation and presentation
Employees: 55,000
Revenues: $32.19 billion in FY 2003
HQ: Redmond, Wash.


FINALIST: EndNote by Thomson ISI ResearchSoft
Application: Bibliographic management
US list price: $299 for full Windows CD and manual
Parent: Thomson
Employees: 42,000
Revenues: $7.8 billion in FY 2002
HQ: Toronto
NYSE symbol: TOC



WINNER: Invitrogen
Service contacts per week: 2,700 calls, 330 E-mails
Average customer wait-time: 28 seconds
Size of customer service division: 46
Employees: 2,744
Revenues: $648.6 million
HQ: Carlsbad, Calif.

FINALIST: Amersham Biosciences
Service calls per week: 5,000-6,000
Average customer wait-time: about 10 seconds
Size of customer service division: 50-60

Size of customer-support team: about 120


"We have a local Invitrogen representative who has gone out of his way to help us to troubleshoot difficulties we have encountered in [optimizing Invitrogen's Gateway System]."
Melissa Da Silva, Christine Butler-Cole, Monika Fazekas, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada



WINNER: Gilson Pipetman
Application: Liquid-handling
US list prices: $254-$289 for Pipetman; $285-$310 for Pipetman Ultra
Employees: 450
HQ: Middleton, Wis.


FINALIST: Rainin 12-Channel Pipette
Application: Liquid-handling
Parent: Mettler Toledo
Employees: 8,500
Revenues: $1.21 billion in FY 2002
NYSE symbol: MTD


FINALIST: Eppendorf Research Ergonomic Pipettes
Application: Liquid-handling
US list prices: $282 for single-channel; $657 for 8-channel; $763 for 12-channel



WINNER: Brenda Maddox, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0060184078



WINNER: James D. Watson, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
ISBN: 074321630x


FINALIST: Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0060194979



WINNER: Invitrogen
Hits: 300,000 per week
Visitors: 42,000 per week
Size of Web site: about 10,000 files and pages, including online catalog and configuration tools


Visitors: 5,000 per day
Size of Web site: about 9,000 active, linked pages


FINALIST: The National Center for Biotechnology Information
Hits: 38 million per day
Visitors: 400,000 per weekday
Computational muscle: 110 PubMed CPUs; 250 BLAST CPUs
Searches: PubMed, 1.8 million per day; BLAST, 120,000 per day
Size of GenBank: 35.6 billion bases, from about 30 million sequences (as of Oct. 15, 2003)
Growth since August: 1.8 billion bases



Best sellers include: QIAPrep Spin Mini Prep Kits, and RNEasy Mini Kits
Employees: 1,651
Revenues: $298.6 million in 2002
HQ: Germany


FINALIST: Amersham Biosciences
Best sellers include: ECL Western blotting detection, and CyScribe DNA labeling kit

FINALIST: Invitrogen
Best sellers include: Lipofectamine™ 2000, and Platinum™ TAQ DNA Polymerase


Employees: 750
Revenues: $130 million in FY 2003
HQ: Madison, Wis.



From a distance, [the LightCycler] looks awesome. Round and with a matte gray shine. Impressive high-pitched, high-speed sounds. I have referred to it ... as a portable thermonuclear device, a nuclear reactor, a music synthesizer, and the famous Monty Python piece of equipment that goes 'Ping.'"
Dirk Geerts, senior staff scientist, University of Amsterdam



WINNER: Roche Diagnostics LightCycler
Application: Multicolor, high-throughput, real-time PCR
US list price: $57,500
Parent: F. Hoffman-La Roche
Employees: 69,659 in FY 2002
Revenues: 29.73 billion Swiss francs in FY 2002
SWX symbol: ROCZg.VX


FINALIST: Eppendorf MiniSpin plus Personal Centrifuge
Application: Personal minicentrifuge
US list price: $1,500


FINALIST: Apple PowerMac G5
Applications: Word processing, data crunching, photo editing, and Unreal Tournament
US list price: $1,999 for the 1.6 GHz PowerPC G5
Revenues: $6.21 billion for FY ending Sept. 27, 2003
HQ: Cupertino, Calif.

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