Applied Precision pioneers technology to fight disease
February 22, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
The cutting-edge technology to help scientists decipher AIDS, cancer and other diseases is manufactured in Issaquah.
The biomedical imaging systems company Applied Precision supplies high-end and high-tech microscopes and other equipment to pharmaceutical giants, medical research institutes and universities, including the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Applied Precision relies on about 130 employees to churn out breakthrough after breakthrough from a little more than 50,000 square feet along 12th Avenue Northwest in the business district.
“We think it’s really important for the U.S. not just to be a service industry,” Joe Victor, president and CEO — and a longtime employee — said late last week. “We need to be designers and manufacturers of things as well. We’re proud to be a designer and manufacturer of equipment, half of which is exported around the world.”
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders singled out in the company in the recent Innovation in Issaquah contest.
The honorees represented a cross-section of Issaquah businesses. Besides Applied Precision, the chamber highlighted election services provider Democracy Live, health care center Restorix Health and nonprofit Eastside Baby Corner, a resource for mothers and infants.
Applied Precision originated on Mercer Island about 25 years ago, as the founders sought to deploy precision-control technology into the semiconductor field. Then, the team started dabbling in the life sciences field.
“We always were very successful in the semiconductor market, but what you saw happening in that market was, the market conditions provided for lower growth and, so, what you saw happening from the year 2000 on was this kind of consolidation,” Victor said. “It’s very common for a mature industry to see consolidation, where some of the smaller, innovative companies will be merged with the larger companies, just because there’s not as much opportunity for growth.”
The business sold the semiconductor business to a New Jersey company in December 2007.
“We really decided to refocus the company all around life sciences, which we thought was more of a high-growth, high-value area to deploy our technology,” Victor said. “Along the way, we took that original precision-control technology from 25 years ago and added to it.”
The company relocated to Issaquah in the late 1990s. The location offered a close proximity to the Eastside high-tech community, plus convenient access to other high-tech communities, such as Redmond, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — a key factor because Applied Precision serves numerous international clients.
“If you look at Issaquah and you look at what the Issaquah city leaders have done, along with the Chamber of Commerce, they’ve built a high-tech and ‘green’ infrastructure in Issaquah,” Victor said.
The life sciences field, he continued, “has much more opportunity for a medium-sized company to really innovate and be successful within that industry.”
The high-tech processes Applied Precision pioneered to design and manufacture complicated microscopes in Issaquah and then ship the hardware across the globe continues to pay off.
“We compete against a lot of much larger companies, and the way we can do that is that we can work in a dynamic and high-growth environment that allows us to innovate and quickly deploy in the market,” Victor said.
Issaquah Innovators, Part 3 of 3 in a series highlighting Innovation in Issaquah honorees
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.