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San Diego: Perfecting Paradise, Copyright 1999 by Heritage Media Corporation


There is a myriad of magic formulas that people use to describe the success of a business. In the biotechnology industry, success is rare indeed. From its entrepreneurial beginnings to its current position as a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company, PharMingen stands out in the crowd of biotech companies in San Diego that are trying to succeed in an increasingly competitive market.

From its humble beginnings, the company has grown to become the preferred partner for life science researchers worldwide. The company now provides an unsurpassed breadth and depth of products, systems and expertise in cell analysis for research and clinical applications. But to truly understand the success of PharMingen is to understand where the company started and where it is going in the 21st Century.

PharMingen was established in 1987 with just three people, occupying 2,000 square feet of laboratory space in Sorrento Valley. Initial funding for the start-up company came from the founders' personal savings and that of their relatives and friends in Taiwan. PharMingen "boot-strapped" its way to profitability in its second year through the hard work of its dedicated employees and the help of some key researchers in the biomedical research industry. To support the rapid growth of the company, additional funding was raised from several strategic partners in Japan. The company also received several Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants from the National Institutes of Health to develop new practices.

The company now employs more than 300 employees at three locations worldwide. Corporate headquarters is located on an 80,000-square-foot facility, six-acre campus in the prestigious Torrey Pines area. The facility houses all company operations, including Product Development, Manufacturing, and Business Administration. About 44,000 square feet of office space has been converted to custom designed, state-of-the-art laboratories. The headquarters also contains a lunch and outdoor patio facility, a library and a fully equipped multimedia conference center that enables PharMingen to host seminars and symposia, providing a forum for scientific exchange.

Alongside other strong scientific communities around the country, San Diego is viewed as one of the premier locations in the world for biotech and biomedical research and continues to be a hot bed for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies such as PharMingen. With the support of local leaders and business groups, the biotech community prospers from the availability of a highly educated and talented labor pool as well as the proximity to key collaborators at area scientific institutions and universities. Within minutes from PharMingen is the University of California at San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute and numerous biomedical research institutions and companies.

Over the years, PharMingen has taken part in many community events held by national non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and Leukemia Society of America. Furthermore, PharMingen has joined fellow biotechnology companies in events for local organizations such as BIOCOM, the University of California at San Diego Cancer Center, and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. These activities have included a broad spectrum of fundraising events such as Making Strides against Breast Cancer, selling daffodils for cancer research, surfing contests, and more.

Being a part of the community continues to be a big priority for PharMingen and the City of San Diego has recognized this. In 1996, for example, PharMingen's founder, Ernest Chun-Ming Huang, Ph.D., was awarded the Ernest & Young San Diego Entrepreneur of the Year Award. That same year, he accepted on behalf of PharMingen the San Diego Small Business of the Year award. This recognition not only highlights the success of PharMingen but also the efforts of the City of San Diego in fostering burgeoning businesses, especially in the biotech community.

PharMingen also jointly sponsors the American Association of Immunologists (AAI)-PharMingen Investigator Award. It's intended to honor an investigator who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of immunology. The recipient receives a certificate and a cash award. The recipient also presents a special lecture at the annual meeting following the award ceremony.

Since the company's inception, PharMingen has built a diversified technology base and has positioned itself as a major player in such scientific fields as immunology, cell biology/neurosciences, molecular biology/protein expression systems, and protein chemistry.

PharMingen's strategy of rapidly developing cutting-edge products relies heavily on the transfer of technology from universities, research institutes, and pharmaceutical companies worldwide. After the publication of papers using biological reagents (a substance used, as in detecting or measuring a component because of its chemical or biological activity) scientists are inundated with requests for samples and technical assistance by colleagues. Although this system of reagent exchange contributes to scientific advancement, it can become a burden on researchers.

Therefore, PharMingen facilitates the transfer of technology from this research, develops the technology into products, and scales up production of the reagents according to rigorous quality control standards. As a result, the reagents become commercially available to researchers worldwide. Institutions providing the technology receive royalties from sales and their scientists save valuable time. PharMingen also supplies technical service to answer any questions customers might have about the company's reagents and applications.

To serve international customer needs, the company has established a network of over 30 offices around the world. International sales account for more than one-third of the company's overall revenues. In April 1995, a PharMingen Europe office was opened in Germany and in June 1996, the company expanded again to open a PharMingen Canada branch. These offices serve as regional headquarters, supporting direct sales, business development, technical service and application support, and marketing.

In May 1997, PharMingen was acquired by Becton Dickinson & Company, a Fortune 500 medical supply company that is the worldwide leader in flow cytometry systems for both the research and clinical markets. The acquisition is part of Becton Dickinson's worldwide business strategy to broaden the horizon of health care through the enhancements of flow cytometry systems, software and reagent technology.

A key to the success of the acquisition is the synergy created by the partnership between PharMingen and Becton Dickinson Immunocytometry Systems (BDIS), located in San Jose, California. By joining forces with BDIS, PharMingen has gained access to integrated, advanced instrument systems and applications. BDIS also will utilize PharMingen's ability to quickly launch research products and to facilitate the development and delivery of clinical solutions. PharMingen can also focus on developing and moving applications from the research arena toward clinical acceptance. The partnership also capitalizes on PharMingen's ability to bring research products rapidly to market.

PharMingen has introduced more than 3,000 products addressing the needs of a broad spectrum of biomedical researchers. PharMingen manufactures, for example, monoclonal antibodies and their conjugates, polyclonal antibodies, protein expression systems, and recombinant proteins using advanced bioprocessing techniques. These all have practical applications in immunology, cell biology and molecular biology research worldwide.

PharMingen leverages its technological strengths to produce innovative products by relying on internal product development and technology transfer to drive the product pipeline. To keep pace with rapidly advancing research fronts, PharMingen's scientists are continually developing new products in strategic areas such as cytokines, signal transduction, apoptosis, cell cycle regulation and neurosciences. The company also collaborates with key scientists and institutions around the world, completing hundreds of technology licenses to commercialize reagents.

Using advanced bioprocessing techniques, PharMingen manufactures over 90 percent of its products in San Diego. By focusing on its initial objective to be the premier company in providing quality reagents, applications, technology and service to life science researchers worldwide, PharMingen continues to seek opportunities to meet its customer needs.

After initially establishing a leadership role in mouse immunology research, PharMingen has expanded its product line beyond an initial offering of antibodies. The company now offers the most extensive array of antibodies, reagents and kits for immunology, cell biology, and molecular biology research. These products have applications in studying biological concerns such as immune response, cancer, HIV, sepsis, and inflammation.

Furthermore, PharMingen and BDIS also joined together to form the Custom Technology Team (CTT), a group dedicated to providing custom solutions and technology for biopharmaceutical companies and organizations worldwide. By working together with researchers around the world, PharMingen strives to broaden its product lines and services that serve the needs of the research community.

The resulting global partnership with Becton Dickinson is advantageous in a number of key arenas:

Expanded Product Lines:

  1. Faster introduction of important products.
  2. Broader access to reagents for basic and clinical research.
  3. More clinical assays and complete systems for diagnosis.
  4. Continued competitive pricing.

Dedicated Sales & Service:

  1. Direct sales force and dedicated applications support.
  2. Accelerated product development and worldwide distribution.

Enhanced Customer Support:

  1. Workshops and tutorials at key worldwide meetings.
  2. Customer training programs.

The partnership has expanded the range of tools available to customers worldwide. In December 1998, the acquisition of Lexington, KY-based Transduction Laboratories will enable PharMingen to augment its customer base. Transduction Laboratories develops products for biomedical research and is a leader in developing reagents, primarily in the field of signal transduction. By joining forces with PharMingen, Transduction Laboratories will be able to increase its customer base by leveraging Becton Dickinson's worldwide distribution system while continuing rapid commercialization of quality products.

The health care and biotechnology industries will continue to play a key role in global economic growth. The research, industrial and clinical marketplaces will broaden in geographic scope and diversify even more as new technologies emerge. Some of these include new applications in molecular technologies, drug discovery and development, focused research in cell biology, and immune response measurement. With its strength in providing tools for life science research in immunology, cell biology and molecular biology, PharMingen and its parent company, Becton Dickinson & Company, stand poised to achieve its goal to help people live healthy lives.

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