by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Last April a rumor fed by an online Bloomberg article suggested that BioTek Instruments Inc, the medical device maker headquartered in Winooski with global offices, might be sold. The rumor surfaced again this week. However, CEO Briar Alpert confirmed to VBM today that nothing has changed at one of the state’s signature technology firms.
“We have not sold the company,” Alpert told VBM Friday afternoon.
Briar Alpert, left, in the lab at BioTek Instruments. Video screen capture.
As a practical matter he does not comment on rumors, he said. But as of now the company is still family owned and operated. Other than the fact that the company keeps growing, the only noticeable change is that Alpert’s brother Adam, now 63, who worked at BioTek until January 1 of this year, has retired and moved down to Florida.
BioTek, founded by Alpert’s father Dr Norman Alpert in 1986, is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of innovative life science instrumentation (click for profile HERE.).
Dr Alpert was a professor and chair of the Department of Physiology & Biophysics at University of Vermont. He was a world-renowned expert in cardiac hypertrophy and energetics.
In 1968, he founded BioTek Instruments to manufacture tools for biomedical safety testing. In 1981, he recognized an emerging potential in life sciences and other markets, and took the company forward into microplate-based instrumentation, where they’ve since become a world leader.
Briar Alpert, 61, who took over as president in 2000, said BioTek certainly gets interest in mergers or acquisitions and listens to those proposals. He said sometimes they come from competitors and sometimes they come from strategic partners or others.
He does not know how the billion dollar rumor got started. But they are always open with the employees about how the company is doing and what is going on with it.
BioTek employs 500 globally and 300 in Vermont. It achieved revenues of $165 million in 2018. They’ve added 30 people already in 2019. BioTek ranks 23rd on VBM’s Vermont 100+ list of Vermont-based companies ranked by revenues.
“Our business is doing great,” Alpert said. “We’re very busy.”
BioTek has been growing about 10 percent year after year, he said.
“We’re investing in this company and running it with a long-term perspective,” Alpert said.
Alpert said the noise coming from Washington over tariffs has affected their Chinese business, but he feels it will blow over eventually.
They have several lines of business, so he’s not worried.
“We’re very diversified,” he said “We’re like a stock portfolio… That’s part of the magic of our model.”
As for China, “This too shall pass.”
Bloomberg.com reported April 9 that BioTek was mulling a possible sale for a whopping $1 billion. This would be a significant premium on its annual revenues. Bloomberg said health care companies and investment funds have expressed interest in acquiring part or all of the firm.
In response to the rumors back in April, Bloomberg quoted Julie Bond, BioTek’s senior marketing operations manager: "BioTek is a privately held, family owned company. We frequently do receive inquiries from potential buyers but it’s our policy not to comment on any market rumors."
And as for the ongoing rumors and if and for what they could be sold for, Alpert said, “You’re worth whatever someone is willing to pay.”
BioTek on its Website says its products enable life science research by providing high performance, cost-effective analysis and quantification of biomolecules, biomolecular interactions and cellular structure and function across diverse applications.
For instance, in a video produced by BioTek for its 50th anniversary in 2018, which can be found on its Website, a University of Vermont researcher explains how BioTek’s Cytation system (cell imaging multi-modal reader that’s about the size of a desktop copy machine) allows them to better understand the process of cell division in a form of breast cancer called “triple negative,” which afflicts about 15 percent of all breast cancer patients. Triple negative breast cancer is particularly difficult to treat, tends to reoccur and is known to metastasize.
The imaging device acts is a kind of automated microscope in a controlled environment ideal for studying live cells. It also avoids having to employ animal testing.
By all accounts, the employees love BioTek.
In the video, Briar Alpert loves them back: “It’s everyone doing their part well, that comes together and allows us to be an extraordinary company. People work together with each other. They collaborate. They share ideas. They share their successes and they share their failures. They make a career at BioTek. They know they’re working on something greater than just their part. And in the end, we’re making a product that’s improving quality of life for people in the world, and that’s compelling.”