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Ambion was incorporated in November 1988 and began operations in July 1989 in Austin, Texas. The company's primary focus has been the development of products for RNA-related research applications. Ambion has grown at a compounded annual growth rate exceeding 30% per year through the development, manufacture, and selling of molecular biology reagents to the life science and diagnostic markets. This growth has been largely funded through reinvestment of profits, plus research grants from the National Institutes of Health SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program. Ambion was privately held through February 2006.
Ambion was acquired by Applied Biosystems (AB) on March 1, 2006. This acquisition is an important component of Applied Biosystems' strategy to drive growth by expanding the consumables product offering. It is expected that Ambion will become a center of excellence within the Applied Biosystems consumables business. The strong Ambion brand will be retained, and the company becomes a business within Applied Biosystems.
There are significant revenue, operational, and scientific synergies created by combining Ambion with Applied Biosystems, and Ambion's products will enable Applied Biosystems to offer customers more complete workflow solutions. Ambion's strong brand recognition will help increase sales of both Applied Biosystems and Ambion consumable products via AB's global channels. Ambion's RNA R&D expertise, consumables manufacturing capabilities, and culture of scientific innovation will complement AB's existing strengths, and the combination will provide researchers with new tools to explore gene expression and regulation.
Ambion was started by Matt Winkler, a professor at the University of Texas. His research required the use of a large number of reagents that were collectively more expensive than his NIH grant could afford, so many needed reagents were made within his laboratory. These reagents were well received and appreciated by his colleagues, spurring him to start a company to manufacture high quality, cutting edge reagents. In addition, Dr. Winkler was committed to the creation of a company that operates in an environmentally responsible manner.
Unlike most other reagent companies which are started by people with industry backgrounds, Dr. Winkler's academic background led him to organize R&D at Ambion much like research is organized in academia. Senior Scientists lead small research groups and have a great deal of freedom to work on projects of their own interest within the RNA focus area. Many Ambion Senior Scientists have applied for and received NIH grants. Their major constraint is that their research must lead to new products or useful technologies and relate to RNA. Having the Senior Scientists make project decisions, rather than management, creates a more responsive organization and results in a more creative and innovative company. Unlike most other reagent companies which license much of their technology from universities or other companies, many of Ambion's technologies have been and continue to be developed at Ambion. Senior Scientists at Ambion are predominantly molecular biologists, but include organic chemists, histologists, protein chemists, and other specializations, thereby creating a highly interactive research environment in which problems related to RNA can be rapidly solved.