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Pickering Laboratories.

Pickering Laboratories, a producer of instruments and reagents for post-column analysis, demonstrates that one of the ways to develop a "killer app" is by having a major standards body mandate a testing method that includes its products. The company, located in San Jose, California, was founded by Michael Pickering in 1984. Post-column analysis takes place after a sample has been separated using HPLC, and involves the mixing of post-separation eluent with reagents that make the compounds of interest take on a bright color or fluoresce, either of which can be detected with UVVis fluorescence or absorbance instrumentation.

The technique is useful for detecting amino acids and certain kinds of pesticides, such as carbamate and glyphosate. Pickering Laboratories has been producing instrumentation and reagents for carbamate and glyphosate since the 1980s, but demand for these products increased sharply when the EPA mandated a method--published in its final form in 1989--for glyphosate and carbamate testing in water and crops that includes post-column analysis. The company's first post-column analysis reagents were designed for amino acid analysis and demand for these products from the clinical and pharmaceutical industries has been growing strongly. According to Michael Gottschalk, marketing manager for Pickering Laboratories, amino acids analysis products and products for detecting glyphosate and carbamate each account for a third of Pickering Laboratories' total sales. The remaining third comes from the rest of their product range, including sample preparation columns and calibration standards. Sixty percent of Pickering Laboratories' sales are international and 40%, including Canada, are domestic.

The company maintains a network of 87 distributors worldwide; as Mr. Gottschalk explained, "Fortunately, they came to us.... What has been a driving force is the community of chemists and regulators needing environmental and amino acid testing, and word of mouth through the different governmental agencies meeting as well as conferences." The AOAC, whose standards influence those of the EPA, the FDA and the USDA, is a significant driver of sales for Pickering Laboratories, said Mr. Gottschalk. Dr. Pickering has worked on standards-setting bodies with the AOAC and Pickering Laboratories currently collaborates with the AOAC and does early research for them. The company is also closely examining the activities of EU regulatory bodies in relation to contaminants, as decisions in these organizations could lead to worldwide standards.

As Mr. Gottschalk explained, Pickering Laboratories does not have a direct sales force, but because post-column analysis systems must work in conjunction with HPLC systems, "the HPLC manufacturers are kind of like our surrogate sales force." According to Mr. Gottschalk, the company has a "very loose agreement" with the major HPLC manufacturers: sometimes the HPLC firm will buy a system directly from Pickering Laboratories and sell it with one of its HPLC systems, while in other cases, they will direct a customer who needs to do post-column analysis to Pickering Laboratories. "And in many cases, if there's a bidding war, we're matched with one or the other, and we end up winning no matter which instrument the customer buys."
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Dec 15, 2007
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