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Patrick J. Balthrop '96

EMBA Profile: Patrick J. Balthrop '96

xMAPs the spot

Luminex CEO's goal:  improving human health with his company's patented scientific testing technology

By Romi Herron

"Ambiguity is never a good thing."

That advice from Luminex Corp. CEO Patrick J. Balthrop '96 applies not only to his straightforward management approach, but also to the precision and reliability his company's core technology, xMAP, affords scientific researchers and physicians in research.

Leading an innovative technology provider for the life sciences market, Balthrop is making a living by making a difference, something he says he always set out to do, since his undergraduate studies in biology at Princeton University and Spring Hill College. 

"Impacting human healthcare is very motivating," says the Kellogg School Executive MBA graduate, who held prior senior roles at Fisher Scientific and Abbott Laboratories.

"Our technology enables the discovery of biological markers, for example, and could have a significant effect on how microRNA plays a role in the growth of cancer cells," says Balthrop about xMAP, which combines flow cytometry, microspheres, lasers, digital signal processing and traditional chemistry to analyze lab samples for genetic markers and proteins.

Upon joining Luminex in May 2004, Balthrop redirected the organization's focus to research and development to support xMAP. The proprietary multiplexing technology enables clinical and research labs to obtain multiple results from one bioassay sample, simultaneously, with the capability of running 1,000 samples per day and up to 100 tests per sample.

xMAP is used across the healthcare continuum and it is positioned for future widespread application, says Balthrop, who anticipates its role in the emerging field of personalized medicine.

Through partnerships with market leaders in diagnostics, biomedical research and pharmaceutical development, Luminex is interwoven in a culture of innovation, Balthrop says.  For instance, last November one partner launched a multiplex respiratory test for SARS and Avian Flu using the xMAP technology platform.

Such technology is illuminating researchers' findings, and the industry and marketplace are taking some notice: Luminex last year was honored with the Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Award for clinical diagnostics technology. Luminex also saw its overall annual revenue grow 18 percent and the company was named in the 2005 Deloitte Fast 500 – Fastest Growing Technology Companies in North America.

Recalling his finance studies in the Kellogg EMBA program, Balthrop says he enrolled while running R&D programs at Abbott. His manager, who is today Abbott's chairman, recommended Kellogg as a way to advance his career.

"I was a busy guy with three young children. The commitment was not easy but it served me well," says Balthrop, adding that healthcare innovations require significant time to develop, design and deploy — one reason why Balthrop's management approach empowers each individual to identify and solve problems.

Through "Disciplined Creativity," a framework that emphasizes clear and continuous communication, Luminex employees are encouraged to be innovative and accountable for their individual results, he says.

In one application of this approach, Luminex designed and developed two products, each for a different market segment, but recognized that the timing of the second product's introduction would not meet market needs. So multiple departments collaborated to combine both products' features into one that could be launched in time to meet the needs of both segments.

While the intricacies of protein expression profiling, molecular and immunodiagnostics, and biodefense present scientific challenges that Balthrop continues to study, he says his management style is basic:  He reinforces employees' individual contributions while aligning all Luminex team members with a set of specific, tangible objectives.

"It's the basics of organizational behavior. At the end of the day, what we're all doing is managing people to deliver greater growth and success for all concerned."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University