|Traded as||NYSE: BIO
S&P 400 Component
life science research
|Founders||David and Alice Schwartz|
|Headquarters||Hercules, California, U.S.A.|
Norman Schwartz (President & CEO)
|Revenue||US$2.0 billion (FY 2016)|
|US$28.1 million (FY 2016)|
Number of employees
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. develops, manufactures, and markets a broad range of products and solutions for the life science research and clinical diagnostics markets. The company was founded in 1952 in Berkeley, California, by husband and wife team David and Alice Schwartz, both graduates of the University of California, Berkeley. The company was formed with a charter to make life in the lab easier for researchers by offering useful products that would simplify processes and save time to ultimately accelerate the discovery process. Over the years, through internal research and development efforts and acquisitions Bio-Rad's line of products expanded and the company expanded into new markets. Today, Bio-Rad supplies the life science research, healthcare, analytical chemistry and other markets products and systems used to separate complex chemical and biological materials and to identify, analyze, and purify their components. Bio-Rad's customers include university and research institutions, hospitals, public health and commercial laboratories, as well as the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and food safety industries. Bio-Rad is based in Hercules, California, and has operations worldwide.
Life Science Research
Bio-Rad’s Life Science products primarily include instruments, software, consumables, reagents, and content for the areas of cell biology, gene expression, protein purification, protein quantitation, drug discovery and manufacture, food safety, and science education. These products and solutions are based on technologies to separate, purify, identify, analyze, and amplify biological materials such as antibodies, proteins, nucleic acids, cells, and bacteria. The fundamental areas of biological research are cell biology, genomics, and proteomics. Bio-Rad has historically focused on the study of genes and proteins, but as the interest in studying cells continues to increase, the company is expanding its offering in this area.
As an in-vitro diagnostics supplier, Bio-Rad’s diagnostic products and systems leverage a broad range of technologies and provide high-value clinical information in the blood transfusion, diabetes monitoring, autoimmune, and infectious disease testing markets. These products are used to support the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of diseases and other medical conditions. The company's products in the diagnostics area encompass a broad array of technologies incorporated into a variety of products used to detect, identify, monitor, and quantify substances in patient and donor blood, other bodily fluids, and tissue samples. Bio-Rad is the world leader of clinical quality control products, services, and information systems, products that ensure the accuracy and validity of clinical test results.
Digital Biology: Applications in Life Science Research and Clinical Diagnostics
Bio-Rad recently established a presence in digital biology with the introduction of Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR). Using this technology researchers are able to partition segments of DNA into thousands of microfluidic droplets and then discretely amplify and analyze each reaction resulting in the capture of highly quantitative digital answers not previously attainable. Applications of this technology in life science research and diagnostics include: liquid biopsies, copy number variation, pathology detection, NGS validation, gene expression analysis, environmental monitoring, and food testing.
Bio-Rad Laboratories was founded in 1952 at a time of burgeoning scientific innovation. Medical science was moving forward on many fronts worldwide, notable were James Watson’s and Francis Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA (in 1953) and Jonas Salk’s invention of a polio vaccine (in 1955), among others.
It was during this period of scientific breakthroughs that David Schwartz and his wife Alice, both recent graduates of the University of California, Berkeley, made an unexpected discovery of their own. At the time, Alice was working at a lab studying the physical properties of tobacco mosaic virus, attempting to determine why the rod-like virus broke in certain places.
Before she could begin her research, however, she faced the laborious task of creating her research material, which involved growing plants, infecting them, and then harvesting the virus in which to study. It was during the course of Alice’s time-consuming prep work that it occurred to Dave that perhaps she was not the only one struggling with this type of problem. What if they created the material, packaged it, and made it available to the research community?
Soon after, the two formed a company with the purpose of making life in the lab easier for researchers, one that would simplify processes and save time, improve research methods and materials, and ultimately, accelerate the discovery process.
Although their first product was not the success the couple had envisioned, it turned out that the ultracentrifuge they used to isolate the virus, was. The high-speed instrument was used to separate particles from one another in order to determine the size and molecular weight of anything from polyethylene to the fat content in hamburger meat. Considered a sophisticated and expensive technology at the time, Dave and Alice realized there was a market for selling time on the device to local companies, a service that became one of Bio‑Rad’s earliest successes.
The separation of materials would soon lead the company in another direction. Ion exchange resins were being used as a method of purification. But before the resins could be used, the founders needed to first remove impurities in the material, thereby producing “analytical grade” ion exchange resins. Believing that the purified material would be useful in the lab setting for various applications, Dave and Alice added a new product line to Bio-Rad’s service offerings, analytical grade ion exchange resins, which would eventually become one of the company’s first successful enduring products.
By the mid-1960, Bio-Rad was a recognized leader in separations materials for research. The company was beginning to diversify and apply its technology to meet the demands for new applications. Bio-Rad entered the field of clinical diagnostics with the development of its first test kit based on separation techniques and materials developed for life science research.
In one notable case, diagnosticians were seeking a more reliable method for determining thyroid function, an important measure of human metabolism. The conventional test that was used at the time had severe limitations, often producing erroneous results. Intrigued by the challenge and potential, Bio-Rad scientists began collaboration on the development of a diagnostic test that could better determine thyroid function. Building on earlier work she had done for the National Institutes of Health, Alice Schwartz developed a methodology based on the adaptation of ion exchange techniques to the field of clinical chemistry. The clinical test developed, using a small disposable column, provided for straightforward T-4 (thyroxine) separations and, for the first time, offered physicians an accurate method for determining thyroid function.
The test was so well received that Bio-Rad created a second arm of the company, focused on the growing area of diagnostics. With its technical expertise in separations chemistry, Bio-Rad was now positioned to contribute to a developing clinical diagnostics market. With the T-4 test, Bio-Rad recognized that laboratory diagnostics was evolving into “applied biochemistry”, in which the knowledge and techniques of research are applied to medicine and diagnostics. It was a turning point for the industry—and the company. 
Bio-Rad expanded into the field of analytical and measuring instrument systems through internal research and development efforts and acquisitions in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1999, Bio-Rad purchased Pasteur Sanofi Diagnostics. This strengthened the company’s position in the HIV and infectious disease diagnostic product market. In 2000 and 2004, Bio-Rad divested its semiconductor, optoelectronic metrology, and confocal microscopy product lines. In late 2007, Bio-Rad acquired Switzerland-based DiaMed Holding AG, enhancing Bio-Rad’s position in the immunohematology market. In January 2013, Bio-Rad purchased AbD Serotec, a division of MorphoSys AG. This added Serotec’s more than 15,000 antibodies, kits, and accessories to Bio-Rad’s portfolio of research and clinical diagnostic products.
In 2011, Bio-Rad acquired a new technology droplet digital PCR, which extended the company's reach in the area of DNA amplification. Droplet digital PCR allows scientists to distinguish rare sequences in tumors and precisely measure copy number variation.
As the company broadened its product lines, it also expanded its geographical market. Today the company has direct distribution channels in over 35 countries outside the United States through subsidiaries whose focus is sales, customer service and product distribution. In some locations outside and inside these 35 countries, sales efforts are supplemented by distributors and agents.
bioradiations is an online magazine created by Bio-Rad that offers researchers case studies, whitepapers, tips, techniques, and topics related to Bio-Rad products and services. bioradiations began as a print magazine that was launched in 1965 and was in continuous publication until 2011. Content of the publication includes new product information, technical and application notes describing experiments performed using Bio-Rad products, and interviews with life science researchers. In addition, online site offers interactive content including product demonstrations in the form of system tours, videos, podcasts etc. Visit the site at bioradiations.
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