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Life Technologies Creates the Biotech Tools of Tomorrow

Life Technologies Corp.

Chairman and CEO: Gregory T. Lucier.

Revenue: $3.6 billion in 2010; $3.3 billion in 2009.

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Net income: $378.3 million in 2010; $144.6 million in 2009.

No. of local employees: 1,300.

Headquarters: Carlsbad.

Year founded: 2008 (Original company started in 1992).

Stock symbol and exchange: LIFE; Nasdaq.

Company description: It sells products used to conduct research in the life sciences and provide lab equipment and other services.

Key factors for success: Life Technologies has been able to grow rapidly through acquisitions in established areas and expanding into areas to support the production of clean tech technologies involving synthetic genetics.

Among public companies in San Diego’s booming life sciences sector, Life Technologies Corp. is by far the largest, especially in terms of sales.

The Carlsbad-based company ranks No. 3 on the San Diego Business Journal’s list of Largest Public Companies behind Qualcomm Inc. and Sempra Energy, generating profits of $378 million on revenues of $3.6 billion in 2010 compared with just $1.2 billion in sales in 2006 when it was known as Invitrogen.

Its 2010 sales are three times as much as Illumina Inc. the next company on the list at No. 4.

And what makes Life Technologies so successful?

“Speed, focus and a true passion for the customer,” said Chief Marketing Officer Amanda Clardy. “An example is our involvement in helping Germany with the recent E. coli outbreak, where our technologies helped sequence and identify the contagion and develop a test for it faster than ever done before.”

No Time to Waste

“The speed at which our personnel act helps authorities fight outbreaks like this when time is of the essence,” she added.

Life Technologies, which resulted from the merger of Invitrogen Corp. and Applied Biosystems Inc. in late 2008, markets 50,000 products in 160 countries and says that it possesses one of the largest intellectual property portfolios in the life sciences, with 3,900 patents and exclusive licenses. Life Technologies employs 11,000 people globally.

“Where there is biotech there is Life Technologies,” said a company spokesman.

Lab equipment used on the popular television show “CSI,” which showcases the latest technology in solving homicides, is sold by Life Technologies.

Reportedly, a company product was used to positively identify the body of Osama bin Laden after he was killed in his Pakistani compound on May 1.

A company spokesman said he can’t confirm the published reports.

The company has never been content to rest on its laurels, and it has been quickly moving into new areas, making key acquisitions and investments over the past two years.

The company is eyeing the profit potential in alternative energy: plant-based biofuels, especially those involving manipulation of genetics.

Eventually, Life Technologies wants to develop the tools for customers to make alternative fuels on an industrial scale, much like it markets devices and supplies for companies that do industrial grade medical and genomic research.

In 2008, executives said they would spend $100 million in this new area, and they have been active since, making a number of new acquisitions and at least one major investment.

In May 2010, the company spent $47 million to acquire a big chunk of a German company involved in developing synthetic genes at the microbe level.

Tom York is a contributing editor for the San Diego Business Journal.

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