It Started with a Start-Up
One of Roche’s paths to becoming the #1 diagnostics company worldwide traces its origin to a nondescript garage in Indianapolis where the genesis of one of Indiana’s most successful life sciences businesses took shape.
Willard “Bill” Eason was a chemical engineer at Ford Motor Company in Indianapolis. However, in 1964, his spirit of innovation took hold, and he decided to leave the comforts of his steady job behind to explore new challenges, founding Bio-Dynamics, Inc., and consequently, starting an industrial revolution of his own.
From these humble Indiana beginnings, Mr. Eason saw his entrepreneurial ideas take shape as he launched the first in a successful series of Unimeters. This simple, yet highly innovative device, provided a fast, low-cost means for physicians to perform accurate analyses of certain routine lab work right in their own offices.
It was only a short time before operations moved to the basement of Indiana University Medical Center. At the end of its first year, Bio-Dynamics yielded more than $150,000 in sales and a profit of $16,000. The business continued to grow with more people and new products, eventually to the point where the original parcel of land was purchased in northeastern Indianapolis, marking the current location of Roche Diagnostics’ North American headquarters. Plant One was occupied in 1966, and seven products were sold that year. A short time later, an addition tripled the size of Plant One, and the campus has been on a steady growth pattern ever since.
The Torch Is Passed
Eason’s strong entrepreneurial spirit provided the foundation for continued growth and innovation. Soon after the acquisition in 1974, the researchers created the diabetes/urinalysis business and it took off with the introduction of urine chemistry strips. Bio-Dynamics/BMC launched Chemstrip® bG diabetes test strips in the U.S., and by 1979, test strips sales alone had reached $1 million.
Together, BMC and its U.S. and European R&D teams pioneered many new developments and started what later became ACCU-CHEK®, the brand recognized today as a leader in diabetes care.
From Garage to Indianapolis' Life Sciences Leader
What started on Hague Road in the 1960s grew by orders of magnitude into the largest diagnostics company in the U.S.
Roche could have been quite content with that ranking, as it continued to grow ACCU-CHEK, laboratory systems and reagents, and other diagnostic successes. However, in 1991, Roche acquired worldwide rights to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which it previously had licensed to develop innovative molecular tests for HIV and other diseases. This provided a new era for diagnostics. That same year, Roche Molecular Systems, Inc., (RMS) a global business unit of Roche Diagnostics, was founded exclusively to develop diagnostics and other tests using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, a process that won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993.
In 1998, The Roche Group found an opportunity to accelerate its portfolio in diagnostics, so it acquired Corange Ltd, the umbrella company for Boehringer Mannheim, and quickly became a market leader in diagnostics. Through innovative people, a keen sense of performance and leadership, Roche is well positioned to continue its journey of success for years to come.