|Founders||Dr. Norman Alpert|
|Headquarters||Winooski, VT, U.S.|
|Key people||Briar Alpert
VP Business Dvlpmnt
VP Mktg & Sales
|Website||BioTek web site|
BioTek Instruments, Inc. is a privately held Vermont–based manufacturer notable for microplate instrumentation and bio-analytics software for life science. It designs, builds, and sells detection, washing, liquid dispensing and automation products that are compatible with various microplate formats. Microplates, sometimes referred to as Microtiter (microtitre) plates, are typically found in flat or round bottom configurations with multiple wells arranged in a rectangular matrix often made of polystyrene or polypropylene.
They are used by medical and scientific researchers for screening and measurement and numerous other purposes by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, university science departments, clinics, food manufacturers and nonprofits such as the American Red Cross. According to CEO Briar Alpert, BioTek's instruments help researchers in the life sciences, drug research, and disease analysis to better understand biological processes at the cellular and molecular level.
History and Milestones
The firm was begun in 1968 by University of Vermont physiologist Dr.Norman Alpert who developed biomedical testing equipment. The initial focus of the biomedical business was hospital safety and quality assurance with products that included medical safety analyzers, cardiac simulators, and deliberator testers. In 1981, the firm built its first microplate reader, leading to the creation of BioTek's Laboratory Instrumentation Division. By 1984, it wrote software to log data, which worked on various personal computers including the Apple II Plus and the IBM PC. In 1986, the firm moved R&D and marketing and sales departments to Colchester, Vermont but then moved in 1990 to the Highland Park section of Winooski. In 1987, it offered a stacking automated reader that could read up to 25 plates at a time. The firm adopted voice mail technology in 1991 and buried a time capsule that is scheduled to be opened October 2041.
In 2001, Briar Alpert, son of founder Norman Alpert, became president and CEO, and faced a tough decision. At that point, it had a thriving business in biomedical as well as microplate technology. Briar Alpert, in consultation with his brother Adam and his father Norman, wondered whether the firm lacked resources to compete effectively in biomedical technology since industry survival required substantial investments. The houses of BioTek's top executives were all mortgaged and the company had substantial debt, and selling the biomedical division [in 2002] allowed the company to pay off its debts. Selling the division felt like "selling one's baby", according to Alpert.
The company has since expanded with overseas affiliates and offices, and entered into cooperative arrangements with the University of Vermont as well as companies such as Immucor, Inc., Diachemix LLC, Gyrasol Technologies, Invitrogen Corporation, Enzo Biochem, Inc., and Global Cell Solutions, Inc.
The firm's marketing effort is led by Peter Weith, and Briar Alpert's brother Adam is the vice president of business development. BioTek's first website appeared in 1996, and has since been updated and expanded to offer multi-lingual access. In 2007 it launched an online customer resource center and opened offices in China, India, and Singapore. In 2008 it held a global sales meeting in Burlington, Vermont which was attended by worldwide staff and distributors from 42 countries. It has distributors in nations such as New Zealand. Additional expansions were seen in 2009 and 2010 with a corporate headquarters expansion and the opening of a Swiss office, respectively.
In 2002, the Alpert brothers decided to focus exclusively on the laboratory microplate business, and sold its biomedical division. The decision proved prescient and helped sales. Alpert explained that the practice of keeping the firm privately held was an advantage, despite the drawback that publicly traded firms have greater access to cash. In October 2009, senior executive Adam Alpert participated in programs to help budding entrepreneurs. The company gives scholarships to promising students.
The company's strategy includes continually reinvesting in the business over the long-term to provide sustainable and consistent growth. This growth also includes expanding operations globally; BioTek currently has eight offices around the world. In addition to direct sales, the company markets, sells and supports their microplate instrumentation through a broad network of scientific distributors.
As of 2008, the company has several buildings in Winooski's Highland Park section. The largest building is a manufacturing center (40,000 square feet), headed by Amit Lodha, and an office center (27,000 square feet). In 2009, the company expanded their service department and applications laboratory, headed by Peter Banks, the company's scientific director. Other facilities are located in China, France, Germany, India, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The company implements many initiatives to lessen their environmental impact, and won the 2009 Waste Reduction Award by the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD).
It can sometimes be difficult recruiting quality employees to Vermont since "some outsiders with desirable skills are reluctant to move here," according to Briar Alpert. The firm has worked hard to attract quality employees, and creates a positive work environment. A family atmosphere and culture of mutual respect, as well as flex time, good benefits, and profit sharing contribute to the average 12+ year tenure of a typical BioTek employee.
BioTek was awarded a 5x5x5 award from Vermont Business Magazine in 2008 and 2011. In 2009, BioTek was awarded Best Place to Work in Vermont from Vermont Business Magazine and Business of the Year from the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. The company was also nominated for a Deane C. Davis award. In 2010, BioTek won the Deane C. Davis award  and was subsequently inducted into the Vermont Business Hall of Fame in University of Vermont's College of Business Administration.
BioTek is ISO 9001 certified, and their products fall into four categories: read, wash, dispense, automate.
Microplate readers are used to quantitate a reaction between a sample and reagents in a variety of scientific and clinical disciplines. Many methods are used to detect this reaction, including absorbance, luminescence, fluorescence, fluorescence polarization, time-resolved fluorescence, and TR-FRET. A single-mode reader uses a single detection method, while a multi-mode reader incorporates several methods for increased flexibility.
Microplate washers remove reagents from microplate wells during assay wash steps. The rate of removal (aspiration) can range from gentle, for sensitive cell washing, to robust, for standard ELISAs. Specialized microplate washers also exist for bead-based assays using biomagnetic separation or vacuum filtration. BioTek is best known for their ELx405 Microplate Washer, which is often called a “BioTek” by users.
Microplate dispensers deliver pre-determined fluid volumes to microplate wells using either peristaltic pumps or microprocessor-controlled syringe drives. Peristaltic pumps are used for continuous or semi-continuous liquid dispensing; syringe dispensers are used for precise dispensing in sub-microliter volumes.
Automated Microplate Products
Automated microplate products provide increased speed, flexibility and unattended operation when configured with microplate readers, washers and dispensers. Automated systems can range from processing of a few microplates for low-throughput to hundreds of microplates for high-throughput.
BioTek’s automated microplate products are designed for mid-throughput needs, and can be combined with BioTek products and many other manufacturers.
Competitors include companies such as Life Science Laboratory, Beckman Coulter, Molecular Devices, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Turner Biosystems, Tecan, Phoenix Equipment, and others. Vermont's taxes are relatively high, although the state has provided low-interest loans to BioTek as an incentive for the firm to stay. China presents both a competitive threat as well as an opportunity, according to Alpert. As of 2010, the firm plans to remain in Vermont. Alpert credits the Obama administration for increasing budgets for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation since they helped fund research universities which are prime customers of BioTek.
- Staff writer, Profile: BioTek Instruments, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Jan 1 2008, quote=The elder Alpert, a physiology professor at the University of Vermont, had started the business in a colleague's basement and had guided it to success as a manufacturer of biomedical instruments that test the safety and reliability of machinery used in hospitals..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Kevin Kelley, BioTek thrives despite industry difficulties, Vermont Business, Jan 15 2010, quote=BioTek President and CEO Briar Alpert, his company and its main competitors were expanding at an annual rate of 6 or 7 percent. Last year, Alpert adds, the industry contracted by about 10 percent as the recession hit hard..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Peter Banks, The Microplate Market Past, Present and Future - microplates today – the global market, Drug Discovery World, Spring 2009 edition, Retrieved 2010-02-17
- BioTek Instruments expands world headquarters in Winooski,Vermont Business, Dec 17 2009, quote=The company added 8,000 square feet; effectively increasing the size of its Service department by 50% and housing a new applications laboratory..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- BioTek Instruments, BioTek Instruments Web Site, BioTek Instruments, 2010-01-29, Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer, Profile: BioTek Instruments, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Jan 1 2008, quote=But by 2000, Norman Alpert's successors saw greater opportunities for growth in the life-science tools that the company had started making in the late 1970s. These instruments are used for '10,000 purposes,' Briar Alpert says, citing the examples of testing the safety of the blood supply and enabling forensic labs to process DNA as evidence ..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- BioTek Instruments appoints Millennium Science as New Zealand distributor,Vermont Business, Jul 9 2009, quote=BioTek Instruments of Winooski, Vermont, has appointed Millennium Science Pty. Ltd., as their official distributor in New Zealand...., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer, Profile: BioTek Instruments, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Jan 1 2008, quote=BioTek's sales more than doubled in the five years after the company's consolidation, and Alpert has a goal of doubling revenues again during the next five years. ..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Cari Kelley,Be Part of the Action at the Third Annual Innovation Jam, Vermont.org, October 2009, Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Cari Kelley, Leadership Champlain Welcomes Class of 2010!, Vermont.org, October 2009, quote=Amit Lodha from BioTek Instruments, Inc., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer, "High Tech and Customers Needs. A Vermont Success Story", BIOforum Europe, September 2007.
- Amit Lodha Promoted to Manufacturing Manager at BioTek Instruments, Vermont Business, 2010, Retrieved 2010-01-29
- BioTek Instruments wins environmental responsibility award, Vermont Business, Jul 22 2009, quote=BioTek Instruments and their Green Team have been recognized by the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) as winners of the 2009 Waste Reduction Award..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer, Profile: BioTek Instruments, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Jan 1 2008, quote=But there are significant disadvantages to basing a high-tech manufacturing firm in a state that some in the industry view as 'cold, maple-syrupy, non-metropolitan,' Alpert notes. ..., Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer,NRG and BioTek named Vermont's Best Places to Work,Vermont Economic Development Authority, Apr 2 2009, Retrieved 2010-01-29
- Staff writer, , Vermont Business Magazine, September 16, 2011, Retrieved 2011-09-19
- Staff writer, Biotek Instruments Receives Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business Award,Vermont Business Magazine, May 26, 2010, Retrieved 2010-10-28