Sponsored by Agilent

Simon Østergaard, Vice President of the global Pathology business and CEO of Agilent Technologies Denmark.

Agilent Technologies and Dako Denmark: A Shared Appetite for Innovation

Agilent Technologies had built a strong appetite for acquiring Dako Denmark due to a strong ­cultural fit and leading focus on research and innovation. Now, Agilent Technologies is developing and ­commercialising leading Dako branded diagnostic solutions as part of its Diagnostics and Genomics Group.

For more than 10 years, Dako Denmark was the missing piece of the puzzle for the American giant, Agilent Technologies. The California business, specialised in measurement instruments applied for a wide variety of applications and sectors, waited for the right moment time to expand into the diagnostics market.

In 2012, Agilent acquired Dako, which, at that time, was held by the Swedish equity fund EQT, which in 2007 had bought 100 per cent of the business from the family of the founder, Niels Harboe and Novo Nordisk A/S.

Reflecting on its history, Simon Østergaard, Vice President of the global Pathology business and CEO of Agilent Technologies Denmark said: “Back then, the company made antibodies for a wide range of applications. We raised antibodies for a broad variety of applications within research and diagnostics. But once Dako was acquired by EQT, the company focused on cancer diagnostics and became very specialised in the area of tissue-based cancer diagnostics.”

Agilent is a huge global machine and, working together we knew we could offer solutions that benefit many people worldwide
Simon Østergaard

Both Agilent and Dako have a long history as pioneers in scientific development and a culture focused on research and innovation. In fact, Agilent Technologies dates back to 1939. The company was spun out of Hewlett-Packard, whose founders David Packard and William Hewlett wrote the first codes in a garage in what we now know as Silicon Valley. In 1999, Hewlett-Packard set their sights on the field of life sciences, and Agilent became listed on the Stock Exchange for $ 2.1 billion – the highest listing in Silicon Valley back then.

A shared appetite for innovation

Agilent and Dako shared a desire for innovation, feeding off a healthy culture that welcomed curiosity and experimentation. With just over a thousand employees before the acquisition, Dako was a large player in the Danish landscape. Today, Agilent Technologies has more than 15,000 employees worldwide, and their Danish counterparts have become accustomed to being part of a truly global organisation and environment.

According to Østergaard, “We entered the new ownership embracing Dako’s culture. Agilent is a huge global machine and, working together we knew we could offer solutions that benefit many people worldwide. Our shared values meant a lot to both companies. We have a unique opportunity to sustain our strong position within cancer diagnostics offering conventional tissue-based diagnostics in addition to new offerings like DNA sequencing, which we would not have happened if we had been operating alone.”

Of course, to maintain the pace of their technological developments, investments must be made in new technologies while also meeting regulatory requirements. After all, the political sphere poses strict and rigorous demands on businesses. In Østergaard’s words:

“It would have been difficult if we were the old Dako, while today we leverage capital and benefit from a large pool of competences within the entire company.”

Diversity and culture go hand-in-hand

While Dako remains an independent brand under Agilent Technologies, the culture of the new owner and management is different. As the research and development manager at Agilent Technologies, Signe Bagge Nielsen explains:

“There is a healthy culture where we work on establishing cross-functional collaboration. Just because I work at R&D, it does not mean that I’m locked in a lab most of the time. I also work with my colleagues in other functions with a common goal of delivering the best results as one team. As an employee, you feel that you are part of a big cross-functional collaboration and the company’s development.”

The acquisition meant that around 1,000 Dako employees had to get used to working with 14,000 new colleagues. Now, Dako has been a part of Agilent Technologies for over 7 years, and Nielsen still feels that she is developing personally while working globally.

Echoing this, Østergaard points out: “We are focusing a lot on diversity. We are a global company, so we think of diversity at all levels. It is important for everyone to think about including diversity for a successful company to grow.”

From a business standpoint, it is essential to demonstrate the value of diversity in the workplace. Otherwise, you risk the culture being biased and overlook its nuances. Life sciences companies cannot afford this, according to Østergaard.

Adding to the discussion, Nielsen remarked: “When you bring people together it affects the culture. Something will happen in the way you communicate and collaborate. You create better results, the more nuanced you get because you benefit from quality dialogue and can discuss subjects expansively with people from broad backgrounds.”