An Interview with President Dennis Briscoe

Dennis Briscoe

Wescor Inc, Logan, Utah, has a long history of providing measurement and clinical instruments to diagnostics laboratories, and is recognized worldwide for proven performance and reliability. The company is also an industry leader in cystic fibrosis sweat testing. Wescor is now part of the ELITech Group, a high-growth in vitro diagnostics company bringing high-value solutions to labs worldwide, and its products are now known as ELITech Biomedical Products. CLP asked Dennis Briscoe, President of ELITech Biomedical Systems and formerly Wescor’s vice president of research and development, to weigh in on industry trends, lab priorities, and Wescor’s role in the marketplace.

CLP: Tell us how your former role as VP of R&D helps guide you as president of Wescor.

Briscoe: As VP of R&D for many years at Wescor and ELITech, I became familiar with the trade-offs involved with various technologies, and better able to assess which techniques are the best fit for particular market needs. Engineering is the application of scientific principles to solve real-world problems, and I moved from solving technical problems to the challenge of helping others to do so, and making sure that our company was providing value that customers wanted and would pay for.

CLP: What is your academic and professional background, and what drew you to Wescor?

Briscoe: My undergraduate degree was in electrical engineering at Utah State University. I worked first for Hewlett-Packard, and then at a couple of other hi-tech start-ups in the Silicon Valley area. My first management opportunity was managing the engineering for a high-speed camera and photonics company in Salt Lake City. When my father informed me that Wescor was searching for a director of engineering back in the Cache Valley area of Utah, I decided to apply for the job in 1994. After a few years I became vice president of Research and Development. I completed an executive MBA program, helped arrange the merger with ELITech, fulfilled an 18-month assignment as managing director of Vital Scientific in the Netherlands, acquired by ELITech, and then returned when Wayne Barlow, Wescor’s founder and president for 40 years, and the new ELITech owners were ready to have me manage the Logan, Utah, operation.

CLP: What key factors should labs consider to determine if a particular instrument is a good fit for them?

Briscoe: In today’s health care climate, labs need to consider products that will address specific issues such as cost-effectiveness, productivity, labor, and uptime. Lab management should consider practical needs and regulatory requirements in selecting instrumentation, and choose solutions from companies that have a good reputation for product support, as well as performance. Many products include impressive performance claims, but lack the applications’ support and product service needed to achieve the advertised results consistently.

CLP: What is Wescor’s flagship product, and what is its most cutting-edge product?

Briscoe: Wescor is probably best known for its Aerospray slide stainers, now part of its ELITech Biomedical products line, and its Macroduct and Nanoduct systems for sweat testing for CF diagnosis. All of Wescor’s main product lines have incorporated patented technology, and are regularly updated to incorporate feedback from users in the field in novel ways to provide increasing value.

CLP: Do you have plans for new products to fill a void in the marketplace?

Briscoe: For years, Wescor has provided reliable and accurate sweat analysis systems measuring total electrolytes on the basis of conductivity. Many labs worldwide prefer to measure chloride concentration to conform to evolving guidelines. Wescor plans to introduce a new analysis system this year that will help laboratories obtain easy accurate sweat chloride concentration results.

CLP: What is your company’s emphasis at this time?

Briscoe: Wescor is emphasizing simpler and even more reliable laboratory automation to replace error-prone and laborious manual methods in laboratories of all sizes. Automation, consistency, and efficiency that were once affordable only to large reference labs can now be brought closer to the patient. The ELITech Group is committed to deliver high-value diagnostic solutions to laboratories operating closer to the patient to enable better medical decisions.

CLP: How do your company’s operations differ now that you’re part of a global group?

Briscoe: The ELITech Group has an objective to design products that “Deliver Trouble-free Solutions Laboratories Can Trust.” This fits very well with Wescor’s long-time goals. We assist in the development and distribution of instruments and test kits for a variety of diagnostic companies in Europe and throughout the world. ELITech is very focused on consistent growth and differentiated products and services, so it fits Wescor’s hopes for the future very well. We benefit by learning about different market segments and participation and partnership as a result of the variety of companies that ELITech has assembled in the areas of molecular diagnostics, clinical chemistry, microbiology, and immunology. We see ourselves as a valued part of the ELITech Group, with objectives to extend our past successes and surpass customers’ expectations.

CLP: With your instruments in mind, do you see more focus on quality control procedures in labs?

Briscoe: Very definitely. Laboratories desire instruments that help consistently generate accurate diagnoses, but they also need to be able to prove the accuracy and repeatability of those results. Simple, professional, and reliable qualification procedures save many hours of valuable time for our laboratory customers, and make our equipment an even better value.

CLP: Do you see more emphasis on standardization in the lab environment, and if so, is it to your benefit?

Briscoe: Yes, laboratories run more efficiently and provide more accurate results when standards are established, maintained, and continuously monitored. Wescor’s products assists laboratories in getting the highest-quality results every time and on time, helping operators meet the standards that the lab has established or adopted.

CLP: What’s on the horizon for Wescor?

Briscoe: We’ll see more collaboration on diagnostic systems, both inside and outside the ELITech Group. The value that Wescor brings through experience in small mechanisms, precision control and measurement circuits, and sample handling can be combined with many methods that represent the expertise of other companies. We find fulfillment in working with others to enable better medical decisions by delivering high-value diagnostic solutions to laboratories throughout the world.

Judy O’Rourke is editor of CLP.