PEOSTA, Iowa — More than a dozen years have passed since a pair of local residents acquired a Connecticut-based laboratory equipment business and brought it to Peosta.
Even so, owners Patrick Mueller and John Stork approach their venture with an energy and enthusiasm that suggests it is new.
To Mueller, that sense of excitement stems from the realization that IBI Scientific is supporting research that can change the world.
“We’ve seen the breakthroughs that happen,” said Mueller. “And it is exciting to see those developments, whether it be vaccine research that helps local economies and family farms, or it is research being done that helps patients and people.”
Located at 9861 Kapp Court, IBI Scientific manufactures bench-top laboratory equipment, nucleic acid purification products, electrophoresis products, molecular biology reagents, polymerase chain reaction enzymes and more.
Many of the products perform specific tasks that are difficult for the layman to understand, but are critical for scientific research.
One such product is The Belly Dancer, an item that features a platform anchored at all four corners by flexible supports. The device allows researchers to shake, mix and agitate a wide range of gels, liquids or other mixtures.
Products produced by IBI Scientific assist research at universities, large commercial companies and smaller startup research firms.
Most of IBI Scientific’s products are sold in the Midwest, which has a strong presence in the biotech and life science markets. However, the company’s owners emphasized that IBI Scientific has “a worldwide reach.”
“We compete with other American companies, and with the Japanese and the Germans,” said Stork “We believe we have some of the best products of our type in the world. We are proud of the quality of our products.”
LONG ROAD TO SUCCESS
Before they became the leaders of IBI Scientific, Mueller and Stork worked together at Barnstead/Thermolyne in Dubuque.
They both departed from that company in 2004, around the time Barnstead/Thermolyne was acquired by another firm.
That same year, Stork and Mueller purchased Connecticut-based business IBI Scientific. They moved the company to Peosta and started with five employees.
For the past 13 years, IBI Scientific has focused on a high-growth portion of the research community.
“Our frame of reference was on laboratory products, and we focused on the fastest-growing sliver of that market, which was life sciences,” Stork said. “That involves people who are dealing with RNA, DNA and proteins. It’s any type of research that deals with a human, plant or animal.”
Mueller said the products sold by IBI Scientific have been used by large companies such as Harrisvaccines, the company that created a vaccine for the avian flu virus that affected chickens and turkeys throughout much of the Midwest.
But Mueller emphasized that IBI Scientific also works with a number of biotech startups and small researchers coming out of universities.
In 2012, IBI Scientific acquired Stovall Life Science, a company based out of Greensboro, N.C. IBI Scientific now employs a dozen people — and that number is set to grow.
MOVING ON UP
After 13 years in the same building, IBI Scientific plans to move to 7445 Chavenelle Road by Jan. 1.
Stork framed the move to a larger space as one that will help IBI Scientific take the next step.
“It is going to be a larger space and will really allow us to organize things from a workflow and inventory standpoint,” he said.
Mueller, meanwhile, noted that the new space will allow IBI Scientific to use a dedicated lab room, a luxury the company does not have in its current home.
With the move, Mueller and Stork expect to add employees, although they are not sure how many.
“Increasing local employment has been a goal of ours since we started this,” said Stork. “The way we see it is, there is no limit to how many employees we can add because there is no limit to our growth.”
IBI Scientific’s sustained success has garnered the attention and praise of local economic development officials.
To Dan McDonald, vice president of existing business for Greater Dubuque Development Corp., the company’s growth has not come as a surprise.
“We had the privilege to work with them back when the company was first forming, and it was apparent right away that we were working with smart and proven executives,” said McDonald. “They really represent the entrepreneurial attitude that we want to see more of in the area.”
McDonald also believes the success of IBI Scientific adds something new to the economy in the Dubuque area.
“When you look at the whole picture of Dubuque’s economy, we want to be well diversified and hedged,” he said. “So when you get a company like IBI Scientific, that is playing ball in an area unrelated to (more common Dubuque industries such as) food processing, or ag, or construction or financial services, I think that is a great thing. That is exactly the type of diversification we want.”