DRG International develops and manufactures immunoassays for diagnostic applications

Feb. 16, 2014


Matthias Herkert
Managing Director, Research and Development


I have been working for DRG Instruments since April 2008, first as senior scientist and since 2012 as R&D director.


PhD in zoology from the Ruprecht-Karis University
of Heidelberg, Germany.


“Since my student days, I have been very interested in physical exercise, especially games like soccer and squash. Furthermore, from southern Germany it is only a few hours’ drive to wonderful skiing and hiking areas in the Alps. And I have to admit that I have reached an age where I appreciate drinking a good wine with good friends.”

How would you describe DRG International and its primary areas of expertise? DRG International is dedicated to the development and manufacture of immunoassays for diagnostic applications. These assays are used in doctors’ offices or specialized diagnostic laboratories to analyze patients’ body fluids for specific markers that allow differential diagnosis, support therapy monitoring, or simply check health status.

What market(s) does DRG International primarily serve? What kinds of solutions does the company offer to its customers? DRG International sells its products worldwide in more than 120 countries. Our immunoassays for routine parameters like hormones or enzymes are generally used in small to mid-size laboratories, whereas specialized products or niche parameters are often requested from universities or research facilities of pharmaceutical companies. Traditionally, we offer immunoassays for manual application or for automated procedures on so-called open systems. In 2013, we opened a second product line with the Hybrid XL. This is a fully automated analyzer that allows the simultaneous measurement of immunoassays and clinical chemistry parameters with maximum flexibility for the customer.

As Managing Director of Research and Development, you oversee all international R & D. That sounds like quite a challenge—to supervise such far-flung operations. How do you meet that challenge? The last 20 years have seen a tremendous acceleration in data flow, especially driven by the worldwide web. I know that many people are skeptical of this globalization in information transfer, but it really helps a lot to speed up data mining of new developments and trends in medicine, and notably in the field of diagnostics. Even more important, our team of experts, many of them with years of experience in the fields of medicine, chemistry, or biology, but also with economic know-how, are in close contact with our DRG colleagues in Europe and overseas to discuss new developments or needs in the diagnostic market. Finally, DRG is part of a strong scientific network which is also supported by governmental grant programs to initiate partnerships among industry, academia, and medical centers.

DRG develops and manufactures diagnostic ELISA test kits for use in clinical and research laboratories. What new areas of ELISA testing kit production has DRG entered recently? Last year, we finished the development of our hypertension panel, which includes the parameters Renin and Aldosterone, important for the differential diagnosis of the adrenal gland and kidney function. Furthermore, we are now working on Angiotensin I and II to complete this panel. We also launched a non-radioactive assay for 25-OH Vitamin D, which has been shown to be important for bone mineralization and also to have protective effects against diseases such as diabetes or cancer. And we have a very interesting new assay called Cyr-61 that originally was developed for early detection of preeclampsia. While this could not be proven in later studies, Cyr-61 has been shown in a pre-clinical study to have high potential as a marker for acute coronary syndromes, and we are very excited to see the results of the just-finished clinical study.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the DRG HYBRID-XLAnalyzer. Can you explain the advances this product represents? Until now, you needed different instruments to run immunoassays and clinical chemistry parameters. Now, the Hybrid XL offers a unique feature where different assay types can be run in parallel and fully automated on one instrument. This includes classical immunoassays as well as clinical chemistry and turbidimetric assays. In addition, the flexibility of the system allows the measurement of up to 40 different parameters from one sample at a time, or up to 20 different samples with two parameters. Also, a user-friendly touch screen allows the customer to intuitively set up a run in a few minutes. Personally, I like the elegant design of the Hybrid, which is combined with the functionally of a bench-top instrument that fits even in labs with limited space.

Please tell our readers about the opening of a new DRG lab in New Jersey. With the opening of the DRG International headquarters in April 2013, DRG not only found an appropriate new building for its expanding activities but also gained new lab space. This gives us, for the first time, the opportunity to share new development projects between Germany and the U.S. The big advantage will be that we can react even faster to market needs in developing new assays and also in establishing a new production facility within the United States.

You have written in MLO about biomarkers for cancer (June 2012). What are some recent developments in this area? In the last few years, a lot of therapeutic agents have been developed against many cancer types, and the number of new potential tumor markers is constantly growing. So the concept of personalized medicine becomes more and more a reality. Just think of the benefits of HER-2 not only as a diagnostic tool to detect breast cancer at the earliest stages, but also to stratify patients with respect to treatment with HER-2-specific therapeutic antibodies. Furthermore, you can now monitor the therapy by measuring the activation status of the whole HER-2 signaling cascade.