Innovation/Application: Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific is among HudsonAlpha’s 15 resident associate companies.  Headquartered in Waltham, Mass., Thermo Fisher landed at the institute after acquiring Open Biosystems in 2008.  Rusla Du Breuil, associate director of research, gives us a closer look at Thermo Fisher in this edition of Innovation/Application.

Q:  When was Thermo Fisher Scientific founded?

A: Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, was created in 2006 by the merger of Thermo Electron and Fisher Scientific. Its mission is to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer by providing analytical instruments, equipment, reagents and consumables, software and services for research, manufacturing, analysis, discovery and diagnosis.  George Hatsopoulos founded Thermo Electron in 1956. Chester G. Fisher founded Fisher Scientific in 1902.

Q:  Thermo Fisher Scientific acquired Open Biosystems shortly after the institute opened. How did this change things for Thermo Fisher Scientific?

A: The Open Bio portfolio is sold under the Thermo Scientific brand and rounds out the company’s offering of life science products for genomics applications.  The Open Biosystems portfolio includes one of the world’s largest collections of shRNA products and cDNA clones and a comprehensive custom antibody and peptide offering.

Q: Please provide an overview of the work addressed by the HudsonAlpha office

A: Thermo Scientific and Open Biosystems products span genomics technologies, RNA-interference and antibodies.   Our genomics products (including both cDNA and ORF libraries) help scientists unlock the functions of human genes and their relationships to health and the development of disease. We offer the most complete gene library in the industry. 

The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) has revolutionized the way researchers approach the studies of gene expression, regulation and interactions, particularly as they relate to drug development.  RNAi tools allow researchers to “silence,” or block the effect of specific genes and the proteins they control so their function or role in disease can be identified and studied.  Our collaboration with Drs. Greg Hannon (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) and Steve Elledge (Harvard University) has led the way in the evolution of our short hairpin RNA (shRNA) technologies.  These provide the life sciences community with reagents to silence any gene in the human, mouse and rat genomes – with many technology and delivery advantages, including a safe human-based lentiviral platform.  This technology provides investigators with superior delivery capabilities for high-quality cellular screening on a large scale. 

Our proteomics resources provide researchers worldwide with state-of-the-art antibodies and peptides that are based on superior design algorithms and production protocols.  These tools enable the analysis of proteins and their cellular counterparts in the context of their functionality.

Q:  Who stands to benefit the most from your products and services?

A: Our products directly enable our research customers to study the effect of specific genes and proteins on disease.  This knowledge of gene function provides valuable insight into critical areas of research, including cancer, neurology, microbiology, degenerative disorders, drug discovery, disease prognosis, diagnosis and therapy options.  Ultimately, the work of our research customers benefits patients and society as a whole.

Q: Please tell us about your team at HudsonAlpha.

A: Our HudsonAlpha office is part of more than 35,000 employees worldwide.  Thermo Fisher’s Huntsville location has a seasoned leadership team that includes heads of operations, finance, R&D, software development and human resources – all with a history with Open Biosystems and years of experience in the life sciences industry. This team has a commitment to produce innovative products at the facility and is dedicated to contributing to the community at large.

Q: What did Thermo Fisher find most attractive about conducting business in the HudsonAlpha location? 

A: This was an easy decision.  The atmosphere, facilities and scientific camaraderie at HudsonAlpha provide a wonderful work setting. Colleagues visiting from other Thermo Fisher Scientific facilities are always impressed by what we’ve built – and continue to build – at HudsonAlpha.

Q: How would you describe the relationship with the nonprofit HudsonAlpha Institute and its researchers, not to mention the scientists at the other resident associate companies?

A: Our relationships in this community are extremely beneficial.  We are in close proximity to experts and technologies beyond our own areas of focus, and this motivates and enriches us all.  We routinely collaborate with institute researchers and resident companies, and this has resulted in several innovative commercial applications. Finally, we have access to the educational outreach programs.  The BioTrain program, in particular, has not only helped our staff, but has given opportunities to aspiring students during the summer, many of whom have an opportunity to join us in the future.