The potential for success seems limitless for Acton-based Psychemedics, which touts its hair-based drug-testing technology as superior to other hair and urine tests on the market. The company, founded in 1987 and located inside Acton's Nagog Park off Route 119, has been profitable every year throughout its history, and posted record sales in the last two quarters, growing revenue to $7.1 million in the third quarter compared to $6.5 million a year ago. This summer, Psychemedics secured a new, 17-year patent on a hair test that measures approximate alcohol consumption over a period of three months, which will allow clients to screen potential employees for excessive alcohol use.
At the helm is Raymond C. Kubacki, who has led the company as president and CEO since 1991. He joined Psychemedics after holding a number of senior management positions in finance, marketing and manufacturing.
It's very important because all hair testing's not the same. All urine testing is the same... patents (are) fundamental to all hair testing. As a result … others have to use a lesser-type method where, in some cases, they can only get 30 percent of the drug out; in some cases, 11 percent of the drug out. Huge difference. So, as a result, our test becomes a lot more sensitive. We get five to 10 times the number of positives that a urine test gets. Other hair-testing companies will say they'll get almost twice as many, or maybe two times or three times.
What do the next five years look like for Psychemedics?
We have continued to invest in our technology, as you saw with our new patent, our new immunoassays. We have continued to invest in our sales and marketing team … with the objective to accelerate our sales growth, but we've got to make sure it's profitable growth. That was the objective in investing in the technology and investing in the sales and marketing team that we have.
Do you attribute recent success to an improved economy?
Yes and no. Most of our testing still is pre-employment testing, so if people are hiring, (we see it) through our clients testing new employees. So the improvement in the economy has been helpful. On the other hand, the improvement hasn't been anywhere near (what) we would have thought it would be. We've even shifted a little bit of our focus internationally, and are not waiting for this economy to come back, because it's coming back too slowly.
Which industries are most interested in drug testing today?
We've been particularly strong in oil and petrochemical in a number of (regions) … At those plants, if something were to happen, it would be disastrous. Our primary focus is workplace drug testing. Secondarily would be emerging markets and one of those would be schools and colleges.
Keep in mind the whole objective of drug testing is not to throw people out of an organization, school or the workplace. It's to deter people from taking drugs.
What's your advice regarding the patent process?
The process itself is not necessarily easy because you strongly believe you've got something patentable, but (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has) got to do an independent review on it, and they may not believe it. On the other hand, they're not believing may be based on some (information) you can correct …You've got to be hands on in working with the lawyers, in working with the patent office and your own research team.
How do you describe your management style?
I'd say my approach is very direct, very hands on, yet focusing on teamwork and communication … If you're running a small or medium-size company, there are a lot of disadvantages. You don't have the resources large companies have — human resources or other resources. However, you've got some significant advantages and a big advantage is your ability to move quickly.
Why have you chosen to make Acton the base for your headquarters?
First of all, you're right in between two major semicircles around the city, (Interstates 95 and 495). The commute is a heck of a lot nicer coming into Acton if you're out somewhere on 495 or even on (95) than going downtown. So I think it's a great location … I have no vested interest in this office park (Nagog Park) whatsoever, but I think this office park is absolutely terrific. You're very close (to) a convenient little strip mall and things that you might need, and a lot of people are out walking at lunch.
This interview was conducted by Emily Micucci.