R&D Systems, a Minnesota-based biological products company, started by producing hematology controls and calibrators for use in hospitals and clinics. In 1977, we introduced our first product, a platelet-rich-plasma control, and in 1981, we became the second manufacturer in the world to release a whole blood control with platelets. Over the years, the Clinical Controls Division (formerly R&D Systems Hematology) has continued to develop a variety of hematology controls. In the early 1980s, however, workers at R&D Systems noted that a growth factor with diverse and intriguing properties had been identified in platelets. At this time we turned our attention to the possibility of producing the growth factor as a reagent for the research community.
Former Land O'Lakes factory circa 1927 and current Bio-Techne corporate headquarters.
R&D Systems Enters the Biotechnology Market
In 1985, we released our first research reagent, TGF-beta 1, becoming the first company in the world to produce this cytokine commercially. TGF-beta 1 acts as an extracellular signaling molecule that is produced by many cell types. It is involved in such processes as immune function, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation. Following the launch of this product, we purified several other cytokines from natural sources and released them to the research market. Of great interest to biomedical researchers, cytokines are specialized proteins mediating communication between cells. They have many biological activities including regulating developmental processes and orchestrating the immune response. In addition, unregulated cytokine activity has been linked to many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory disorders.
Ribbon structure of TGF-beta 1, an R&D Systems product.
Encouraged by success in the cytokine market, we formed the Growth Factor (now known as Biotechnology) Division in 1985 with the goal of producing and marketing a wide range of human cytokines through genetic engineering. Recombinant DNA technology offers several advantages over extraction of these proteins from natural sources, including lower production cost and potentially unlimited supply. In 1989, the Biotechnology Division began developing monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies to cytokines, and in 1990 we developed our first enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit.
In 1991, with the purchase of Amgen's Biologicals and Dx business, we obtained our first cytokine ELISA assay kit cleared by the FDA for clinical diagnostic use. In 1998, we purchased Genzyme Corporation's Research Products business. This acquisition established us as the world's leading supplier of research and diagnostic cytokine products.
Expanding to Reach New Markets
In the 1990s, we turned our focus to expanding our sales and distribution network. We purchased British Bio-technology Products Ltd. and established it as our first European distributor, renaming the group R&D Systems Europe, Ltd. R&D Systems Europe sells and distributes the company's biotechnology products throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As a result of growth in the European market, we opened a sales office, R&D Systems GmbH, in Germany in 1995. In 2007, R&D Systems established its wholly owned subsidiary in the People’s Republic of China, opening its warehouse and distribution center later that year in Shanghai. The subsidiary provides warehousing, marketing, sales, and technical services for the growing Chinese market. In 2011, R&D Systems China established a sales subsidiary in Hong Kong.
R&D Systems Europe.
We also made strategic acquisitions. In 2005, R&D Systems acquired Fortron Bioscience, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, antigens, and other biological reagents. With this purchase, we also acquired BiosPacific, Inc., a worldwide supplier of immunological reagents to the commercial diagnostic industry and a company with skills in supporting customers collaboratively from feasibility testing to manufacturing. The acquisitions enhanced R&D Systems' ability to serve the diagnostics industry. Fortron was merged into R&D Systems Biotechnology Division in July 2007. In April, 2011, R&D Systems acquired the assets of Boston Biochem, Inc., a leading global developer and manufacturer of innovative ubiquitin-related research products. Founded in 1997, Boston Biochem specializes in several related product lines for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like proteins and associated enzymes, substrates, inhibitors, and kits. These specialized products facilitate and accelerate biomedical research and drug discovery efforts.
Also in April of 2011, R&D Systems and R&D Systems Europe acquired Tocris Holdings Limited and subsidiaries, a leading supplier of pharmacological reagents for life sciences research. Tocris reagents include bioactive peptides and small molecules designed to modulate the activity of receptors, ion channels, and a range of intracellular signaling molecules. These products are of interest to biomedical researchers in a wide variety of disciplines.
Molecular structure of L-Glutamic acid, a Tocris Bioscience product.
In 2013, we further strengthened our Clinical Controls Division with the acquisition of Bionostics, a world-leading developer and manufacturer of calibrators and controls for original equipment manufacturers. Based in Devens, Massachusetts, the company specializes in products for use in critical care and point-of-care blood glucose and blood gas testing.
Bio-Techne Diagnostics Division testing laboratory.
Today, our product line extends to over 24,000 products, 95% of them manufactured in-house. While maintaining our core strengths in cytokines and immunoassays, we also develop antibodies, cell selection and multicolor flow cytometry kits, multiplex assays, biologically active compounds, and stem cell products and kits, as well as maintaining a clinical hematology laboratory with the most diversified instruments capabilities in the industry. The company brings its diverse expertise and the combined strengths of its product offerings to the research and diagnostic communities, providing the resources needed to advance life sciences research and support clinical breakthroughs.