2006 Life Science Industry Awards

FEATURELSIA 2006 Our fourth annual event celebrates excellence in life science product development and services BY JEFFREY M. PERKEL AND ISHANI GANGULI It has been said that scientists stand on the shoulders of giants. Generally that refers to researchers' intellectual forebears, but it also is true of the life science industry - technology giants that provide the scientific community with the tools, equipment and

Apr 1, 2006
Jeffrey M. Perkel and Ishani Ganguli
LSIA 2006
2006 Life Science Industry Awards
Our fourth annual event celebrates excellence in life science product development and services
It has been said that scientists stand on the shoulders of giants. Generally that refers to researchers' intellectual forebears, but it also is true of the life science industry - technology giants that provide the scientific community with the tools, equipment and services they use every day.
For too long these companies have labored away in the background, enterprising and energetic, while their contributions to progress in the life sciences have gone unacknowledged. But no longer. With the Life Science Industry Awards (LSIAs), The Scientist places the companies center stage, figuratively and literally. The 2006 awards are described on the following pages.
Now in its fourth year, the LSIAs are a celebration of the innovation - innovation that has over the past 30 years fundamentally changed the conduct of life science research, says David Martin, CEO of San Francisco biotherapeutics firm Avidbiotics and former head of R&D at Genentech. "Today it seems that one practically designs an experiment based on what's available in a Web-based catalog, as opposed to having to make your own reagents," he says. "And that's a great evolutionary step, very different than it used to be."
The awards are all the more prestigious for being selected by scientists who use the products day in and day out. We at The Scientist, working with Arlington, Va.-based marketing research firm BioInformatics LLC, polled our readers and members of the Science Advisory Board. We asked them to choose the best life science firms in 18 categories, 12 for product excellence and six for service and marketing. Nearly 2,400 voters participated in the survey.
This year's finalists include 22 different companies, a veritable who's who of the life sciences industry. We congratulate all of them for their success, thank them for their contribution to the development of the life sciences, and wish them every success in developing further and better tools for discovery and innovation.

The LSIAs were presented at a gala ceremony April 3 at the Renaissance Washington Hotel in Washington, DC, with book author and science journalist Ira Flatow (host of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday) as Master of Ceremonies. For full coverage of the event, visit www.the-scientist.com/lsia06.

Print Catalog - New England Biolabs
Print Catalog - New England Biolabs

New England BioLabs tops the catalog category this year, with a product that the creators and users alike call handy and informative. "We've worked to hard to make sure our catalog maintains a healthy balance between being a catalogue and being a reference guide," says NEB marketing director Peter Nathan. "It has high-end technical info of the caliber of the latest molecular biology textbooks." In fact, he says, "99% of the questions asked of technical support" can be answered from the reference section.

Kristin Ostrow, a postdoc at University of California, San Francisco, has been using the NEB catalog as a molecular cloning reference "for most of my scientific career. When we joined the lab, it was the first gift [our boss] would give us," she says. Nathan says university course instructors request thousands of copies annually for their students. He attributes the company's success in part to the fact that "everyone in marketing comes from the bench."

Runners Up: Invitrogen, Sigma-Aldrich

Customer Service - Invitrogen
Customer Service - Invitrogen

Invitrogen ranks number one for customer service because of the quality of staff members, says Barbara Puleri, Invitrogen's director of customer service for North America. "They're responsive and efficient, and they have a lot of heart." Despite a trend towards online self-service, there are times "when our customers want to ... hear it from the horse's mouth," she says. With a North American staff of 135 representatives, "we're going to ... make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with Invitrogen."

Aristotelis Astrinidis at Fox Chase Cancer Center has been pleased with Invitrogen's customer service, citing products that are rarely on back-order and delivered quickly. "Usually they're very helpful," he says. In the past, "when we did run into problems, they were happy to replace a product," he adds-for example, gels that came frozen in the initial delivery.

Runners Up: Fisher Scientific, Sigma-Aldrich

Tech Support - Invitrogen

Invitrogen's technical support comes out on top this year because of a staff that is "completely committed and dedicated and passionate," says Dana Deely, Invitrogen technical support manager for North America. In choosing members of her team, she says she looks not only for technical competency and customer-service skills - what she calls an "empathy gene" - but also the ability to be flexible and to multitask.

Located in seven different North American sites and eight additional locations around the world, the majority of technical support staffers have PhDs and an average of eight years of bench experience. Raj Goswami at the University of Chicago says Invitrogen's tech support staff were "quite helpful" with new reagents when he had difficulty purifying proteins, for example.

Runners Up: Applied Biosystems, Sigma-Aldrich

Cell Biology Instrumentation - BD Biosciences

"We do cell analysis, and whatever it takes to do that well," says Tony Ward, BD Biosciences' director of strategic and global marketing for research. Ward points to the company's FACSAria cell sorter/analyzer and BD Pathway Bioimager as among its most popular entries in this category.

Geoffrey Gersuk, staff scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, makes extensive use of BD products: "I use their antibodies for flow cytometry, I use their ELISA kits and products for measuring proteins, I use their plastic ware, their culture plates. It's just across the board."

Gersuk has measured cytokine production using BD Biosciences' CBA Flexset multiplexing assays and FACSArray sorter. He switched suppliers recently because of cost and antibody availability, yet his experience is mostly positive, he says: "They're constantly developing new things. They're not sitting on their laurels."

Runners Up: Beckman Coulter, Carl Zeiss

Cell Biology Kits & Reagents - Invitrogen

Beth Browne, Invitrogen's marketing manager for imaging and microscopy, attributes the company's success to its "understanding where research is going" and acquiring companies-including PanVera, Molecular Probes, antibody companies such as Zyned and Caltag, and Q-Dots-that allow them to help scientists put their work into cellular context.

Molecular probes are a particularly hot product, Browne says, with the "very bright, very photostable, ... really high quality" Alexa fluor dyes leading the pack. They "allow researchers to get more information out of the same sample," Browne comments. Invitrogen's cell biology products are also "consistent and reliable," says Raj Goswami, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, who has been using Invitrogen products for the past decade.

Runners Up: BD Biosciences, Sigma-Aldrich

Cell Culture Media, Reagents & Plasticware - Invitrogen

Out of Invitrogen's award winning cell culture products, liquid media and reagents like DMEM or RPMI are "used most widely in industry," says Invitrogen marketing director Cathy Danahy. University of Cincinnati postdoc Victor Blanco says "They carry the most extensive list of cell culture reagents."

According to Danahy, Invitrogen's Gibco brand is popular because it "comes out with a lot of innovative products." For example, the company's advanced media provides a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional forms, she says. "In our R&D labs, many of these products are used in conjunction with one another, so you have proven protocols."

"When you look at the literature, most people doing cell culture use Invitrogen products, [so] if you want to replicate results ... you want to go to that source to be on the safe side," Blanco says.

Runners Up: BD Biosciences, Sigma-Aldrich

Computer Hardware - Dell

John Flanagan has some 15 Dells in his lab at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, where he is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. And he plans to buy a few more this year. "I've been using Dell for a long time largely because I've had bad luck with other vendors," he explains. Flanagan, who is an x-ray crystallographer, uses the computers for simple image processing, data analysis, and to run equipment in the lab. The heavy work of structure determination itself is done on a higher-end system, but, "Probably in the next couple of months we'll be moving to try and get structure building on a Dell," Flanagan says.

Dell's product lines include its high-performance Precision workstations and the Optiplex desktops, which are optimized for complex network environments, says Chris Zagorski, Optiplex Product Manager. But, Zagorski says, "Regardless of the product line, the Dell brand and the quality associated with it, as well as the efficiency that the Dell business model provides means customers can count on the best in class product at a good value."

Runners Up: Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard/Compaq

Gene Expression Analysis - Invitrogen

Invitrogen's gene expression analysis products are popular, says business area manager Amy Butler, because "it offers reagents across entire workflows." The products are "designed to work together, [so] scientists save a lot of time" on experiment optimization, she adds.

Invitrogen's best-selling product BioPrime kits are mentioned in over 80% of citations for people doing array CGH, according to Butler. Another popular product, Superscript enzyme, is "one of the top performing enzymes in terms of stability and accuracy."

"Their vectors are pretty good in terms of compatibility with multiple cloning sites," says Aristotelis Astrinidis, staff scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, "and they have a broad range of restriction enzymes you can use [so] you don't have to redesign your primers." Raj Goswami at the University of Chicago says he uses many of their vectors, in part because technical support in this area "has been really great."

Runners Up: Affymetrix, Applied Biosystems

High Throughput Screening and Analysis Systems - Applied Biosystems

According to Chris Grimley, Applied Biosystems' director of real time instruments, the 7900 HT real-time PCR machine is the company's most popular product in the high-throughput screening & analysis category. The 7900 HT "is considered the gold standard" in the marketplace, he says, citing its flexibility - with user-interchangable blocks, software, and optional automation - and throughput as major benefits.

Elzbieta "Ela" Zakrzewska, of the department of pharmacology at the University of Vermont, has been using an earlier model RT PCR instrument with Applied Biosystems "Assays by Demand" consumables. "I found them extremely easy to use and straightforward, you cannot make an error," she says - though she doesn't much care for the associated Web site. Jennifer Fischer, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, uses an Applied Biosystem 7500 to monitor isoforms of DNA repair proteins. She says she found the company's service personnel to be very helpful. "I would say overall my interaction with them has been good," she says.

Runners Up: Beckman Coulter, PerkinElmer Life & Analytical Sciences

Image Analysis Systems - Bio-Rad Laboratories

According to Emily Dale, marketing manager for systems and software in the protein function division, Bio-Rad offers three products in the image analysis systems market: the bestselling Gel Doc instruments, the Pharos FX fluorescence imager, and the high-end VersaDoc gel imager.

Brad Crutchfield, Bio-Rad vice president for life sciences, says, "We really try to provide complete solutions for our customers. Some companies are more reagent-oriented, others are system-oriented; we try to provide a complete platform." Dale attributes the company's success in this category to system design: "They really hit the sweet spot for usability, and the software is very popular," she says. "Also, we have great technical support."

Runners Up: Kodak Molecular Imaging Systems, Molecular Devices

Instrumentation for Genomic Analysis - Applied Biosystems

Applied Biosystems wins this year's LSIA for instrumentation for genomic analysis. According to Quynh Doan, product manager for high-throughput systems, best sellers in this category include the company's capillary-based DNA sequencers: the 3130, 3130xl, 3730, and 3730xl. "We've basically looked at each market segment and discussed what customers would need hardware-wise, software-wise, and chemistry-wise, to solve their problems," he says.

The 3730 sequencers, with 48 or 96 (3730xl) capillaries, were designed for production facilities like genomic centers. But the 3130 series, with four or 16 (3130xl) capillaries, was built for small research labs. "We realized that the small researcher is a jack-of-all-trades, so we developed applications and uses on that platform that wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for a genome center," says Doan.

Runners Up: Affymetrix, Bio-Rad Laboratories/MJ Research

Instrumentation for Protein Analysis - Bio-Rad Laboratories

This year's LSIA winner for protein analysis instruments is Bio-Rad. According to Brad Crutchfield, the company's bestseller in this category is its BioPlex product line. BioPlex is a version of Luminex Corp.'s xMAP technology, which uses color-coded beads to build multiplexed assays. "We have a very strong position in that area," he says. "Well over half the Luminex platforms that are used in life science research have been put there and are supported by Bio-Rad."

Bio-Rad offers two versions of its BioPlex system. There's the standard BioPlex - by far the bigger seller, says Dale - and the BioPlex 2200. The 2200 is a high-throughput system intended for the clinical diagnostics market, Dale says. "You can load up a rack of blood samples and it processes them for you," she says. The assays are the same as run on the standard instrument, she adds, "so you can easily migrate from the benchtop to your automated system."

Runners Up: Applied Biosystems, GE Healthcare

Nucleic Acid Purification - Qiagen Nucleic Acid Purification - Qiagen
Nucleic Acid Purification - Qiagen

Since Qiagen released its first nucleic acid purification technology 20 years ago, the company has strived to combine quality with ease of use to make "reliable and robust" products, says Birgit Jostes, senior global director of corporate marketing and strategy. According to voters, they have achieved their goal.

Products like Qiagen's best selling DNA and RNA purification systems come in a variety of specifications to suit the needs of individual customers, Jostes says. What's more, Qiagen's reagents are consistent, says Julia Rozenfeld, a postdoc at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "You go with something once and you know that it works."

Runners Up: Invitrogen, Promega

Protein Separation Products - Bio-Rad Laboratories

"Bio-Rad is recognized as the leading supplier of protein electrophoresis systems, which include electrophoresis and blotting apparatus, precast gels and a full line of consumables," writes Bill Gette, marketing manager for Bio-Rad's laboratory separations division, in an E-mail.

In December 2005 the company launched a new miniaturized electrophoresis system, the Experion Automated Electrophoresis System. Developed in conjunction with microfluidics pioneer Caliper Life Sciences, Experion "makes microfluidic technology a viable approach for gel electrophoresis," says Crutchfield. According to Gette, the system reduces experiment time while improving accuracy and reproducibility.

Reflecting on Bio-Rad's success in this year's awards, Brad Crutchfield says, "Customer service and customer success are major focuses for the company. One thing we repeat constantly is that if a customer has trouble with a system, we failed. We didn't provide the support and information and make it intuitive enough for them to be successful."

Runners Up: GE Healthcare, Invitrogen

RNAi Products - Ambion RNAi Products - Ambion
RNAi Products - Ambion
RNAi Products - Ambion

Eleni Salicru, a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, has been using Ambion siRNAs for at least four years and says she's had good experience with the company and its customer service arm. "Any time we've had questions regarding any part of our siRNA they are really helpful over the phone. They come to Baylor quite frequently, and they do small informational sessions about siRNA. They're always coming and doing stuff, they're easy to talk to."

Pre-made siRNAs are the company's biggest seller, says Ellen Prediger, Ambion's senior manager of technical publications, but other popular offerings include dedicated transfection reagents like siPORT NeoFX, and kits targeting RNAi beginners. "We actually have siRNAs to every single human, mouse, and rat gene published in the RefSeq database," she says. "In fact we have three siRNAs to each gene." Ambion, which bills itself as "the RNA company," was acquired by Applied Biosystems after this survey was completed.

Runners Up: Dharmacon, Invitrogen

Website - Invitrogen Website - Invitrogen

In the past year, says Joseph Lee, director of Invitrogen's award-winning Web site, "we've really tried to hone in on the site's usability ... [and make] it much more of an integrated experience." Having "streamlined and simplified the main entry points" for customers, his team aims to make the site "clear, concise, simple, easy to navigate, and relevant to their particular area of need," he says.

Victor Blanco at the University of Cincinnati thinks Lee's efforts have been fruitful and particularly appreciates "that you can save your preferences and orders ... then reload to place frequent orders." What's more, he says, the information available about products online is "very thorough" and easy to find.

Runners Up: Fisher Scientific, Sigma-Aldrich

Sales Representatives - Fisher Scientific
Sales Representatives - Fisher Scientific

For Ed Pesicka, vice president and general manager of Fisher Scientific Research, the company's strong performance begins with its breadth of products. "We provide our selling organization with high technology, cutting-edge products, and a complete line of life science products as well as technology and services, that provides a significant advantage to our selling organization associated with that."

The company has nearly 4,000 sales and customer service representatives worldwide, says Pesicka. All have technical backgrounds, whether as bench scientists or from a degree, and strong communications skills. "They can be great communicators but if they can't speak the language of The Scientists and understand what a scientist needs, they won't be as effective," Pesicka says.

Runners Up: Invitrogen, VWR

Print Advertisement - Invitrogen

Invitrogen's award-winning print ads aim to combine "imagery that is arresting [and] body copy that is mentally stimulating and interesting to read, [while] trying to communicate the scientific and technological importance" of our products, says Peter Waterman, senior director for global branding and communication.

Invitrogen's Accelerate ad campaign in particular, which urges plant and tropical disease scientists to "Accelerate pollination" and "Accelerate Angola" respectively, speaks to the company's efforts to portray the "big picture of life science research," which Waterman says is now more focused on applying bench research to improving the human condition. Like today's researchers, "we're trying to get closer, as a company, to the patient," he says.

Aristotelis Astrinidis at Fox Chase says he likes the ads because they are attractive and "pretty clear on what the product is used for ... and where to order it." Adds University of Cincinnati postdoc Victor Blanco, the company's marketing is "catchy."

Runners Up: Bio-Rad Laboratories, Pierce Biotechnology

To assure complete accuracy and fairness in selecting the winners for the Life Science Industry Awards, The Scientist selected BioInformatics LLC, an unbiased third-party research firm based in Arlington, Va.

The Life Science Industry Awards are unique in that they allow The Scientists to determine the winners. BioInformatics designed and fielded a 34-question electronic survey to registered members of The Science Advisory Board-the world's largest market research panel of scientific customers-as well as readers of The Scientist magazine. These respondents, using their experience as product users, voted for their favorite suppliers-taking into consideration practical factors such as satisfaction with product features, likelihood to purchase again, likelihood to recommend the supplier, the supplier with best overall solution, and cost-effectiveness.

In all, over 2,400 scientists completed the ballot between Dec. 19, 2005 and Jan. 23, 2006. Categories average 1,221 ballots each, with product categories averaging 665 votes and service and marketing categories 2,333. The RNAi product category received the fewest votes, with 350. The winners for each product category and supplier features were determined by quantitative measure of nominations received for each supplier in addition to the customer-value score. The combined score (nominations and customer-value score) was calculated for all suppliers, from which finalists (the top three companies) and the winner for each category were determined. The customer value score calculation was based on additional questions in the ballot that contribute to a company's competitiveness and success.