Bio-Tek Instruments saw the future

Bio-Tek Instruments saw the future

Marcel, Joyce

In 1968, Dr Norman Alpert noticed a potential danger in the hospital where he was working. Alpert, who was a physiologist attached to the University of Vermont, concluded that some patients were actually put into jeopardy by the very medical equipment that was supposed to be saving their lives.

Recognizing that there was an opportunity to improve the quality of patient health care by guaranteeing that hospital equipment was not leaking electricity and was performing its work accurately, he developed an electrical safety analyzing device and with it, Bio-Tek Instruments of Winooski.

Bio-Tek employs 220 people and had sales of $35 million last year. It sells its biomedical and laboratory instrumentation and software nationwide, as well as exporting it to Europe, the Far East, the Middle East and South America.

“Within the biomedical quality assurance category, we are the worldwide market leader,” said Briar Alpert, Dr Alpert’s son and the current president of the family-owned and family-run business. He joined Bio-Tek in 1986; his brother joined the year afterward. “Within the laboratory instrumentation area, we are one of a group of 10 companies that compete ferociously for business.”

HISTORY

“The original company started out with quality assurance test instrumentation,” Alpert said. “The test instrumentation allowed an operator to test the performance and functionality of medical devices. For much of the equipment you see in hospitals, for example, like ventilators, defibrillators, and pulse oximeters, we make the equipment that assures that they are operating correctly, accurately and safely. We provide that assurance to the hospital, so when they have a patient in defibrillation, and they call for a defibrillator, it really delivers the promised energy to the patient.”

In 1983 Bio-Tek began a new division that makes diagnostic laboratory instrumentation.

“This equipment is a series of hardware and software that allow our customers do a broad level of applications, from testing the blood supply for infectious diseases such as HIV, to screening samples for prostrate cancer, to looking for food-born pathogens such as salmonella, to looking for environmental pollutants,” Alpert said. “We supply the instrumentation which, in combination with the reagents from other companies, provides the customers with the answers they’re looking for.”

The company’s mission is to allow its customers to “perform sophisticated procedures easily, accurately and efficiently, and then to collect the information from those procedures,” Alpert said.

“These are very technical products,” he said. “One of the great strengths we have is very strong research and development capabilities, along with very strong links to the universities. This allows us to have a very good market appreciation of what is important to the customers, and a technical group with the ability to implement design solutions to meet customer requirements.”

Bio-Tek’s parent company, Lionheart Technologies, Inc, is a holding company created by Bio-Tek to handle acquisitions and other corporate matters.

“Bio-Tek Instruments is 100 percent held by Lionheart Technology,” Alpert said. “About the name, we thought it was a bold one which was indicative of our vision and view of the future. So Bio-Tek has two fundamental divisions – the machines for quality assurance, and the machines for laboratories.”

HIGH-TECH STRATEGIES

The company is deeply involved with highly sophisticated technology.

“We are very good at moving fluids around in a very precise, accurate marine.”

Alpert said. “We are very strong in optics, fluidics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, software development and integration. Our engineering staff understands the customers’ applications, and so, in designing solutions for their research questions, they’re very customer-focused.”

The company seeks out needs that are typical of its customers, and then develops products to fill those needs.

“We try to develop products that offer more value to that customer group than anyone else in the marketplace,” Alper said. “Whether that is more functionality, lower cost, or a combination of the two. The key is to try and build something that many people want, and to do it in a fashion that provides high value to the customer and solid profitability to the company.”

In a rapidly changing medical environment, the company has developed man growth strategies.

“First, we intend to focus on the ne markets created by the decentralization health care,” Alpert said. “We are also focusing on international markets. Home health care is going to be an important market.”

The most important future developments and markets, however, will come from the Human Genome Project, the sequencing of the human DNA strand.

“The project will drive a tremendous number of applications for our instruments,” Alpert said. “The next interesting area is going to be proteonomics – how genes act on proteins within your body. The proteins actually are the ones that cause good things or bad things to happen.”

Innovations in the pharmaceutical field will also help drive market expansion and profit, Alpert said.

“Many pharmaceutical companies have collected samples of leaves, barks and soils from around the world,” he said. “They’ve collected them from deep in the rain forests, from under the ocean, from high on mountains. Potentially, in one of those samples might the cure for something. But in order for them to find out, they’ve got to run hundreds of thousands of tests on millions of samples. If you do the math, there are billions and billions of tests that need to be performed.”

Alpert estimated that nearly half of Bio-Tek’s business is already outside of North America.

“Europe is probably the largest portion of our export business,” he said. “They are a big market. There are 320 million people in Europe. Our other important growth strategy is to have more expansion into the Asian market.”

KEYS TO SUCCESS

Bio-Tek is a perfect “Vermont” company, Alpert said.

“We are a very clean company,” he said. “We don’t have negative byproducts. We’re very high-tech. We’re vertically consolidated – we have all the functional departments here, like R&D, quality assurance, marketing and sales, information systems, finance, manufacturing. We are an employer that pays significantly above minimum wage. And I think all of that is very beneficial for the state.”

The real strength of the company, ultimately, lies in its workforce, Alpert said.

“They are our key to success,” he said. “We have a very mature and experienced and talented group of people here. Their commitment to providing the customer we all work for with superior value has allowed us to be successful and to grow. Our view of the future for Bio-Tek is very, very positive, and we are excited about the huge number of opportunities that we are considering.”

Copyright Boutin-McQuiston, Inc. Jan 01, 2001

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