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By: Rachel Berlin, Marketing Manager
1978 was a great year for scientific advancement – NASA hired the first women astronauts, the first test tube baby was born and List Labs was founded. Linda Shoer, our founder, saw an opportunity when she realized there was a need for a commercial supplier of Cholera Toxin for studies in signal transduction and neuronal track tracing. On May 18, 1978, Linda started something more than a company, she started a family- the List Labs family.
List Labs’ catalog has grown to include over 100 products, which have been used in thousands of scientific research projects over the years. More recently we have added services to our offerings; this trend started in the early 90’s when List Labs manufactured Botulinum Toxin (Botox) for Allergan. Since then our services have expanded to include cGMP grade manufacturing, live biotherapeutics products, scalable process development for fermentation, purification and lyophilization, enhanced QC testing and more! We’ve also added to our team of experts with employees in Microbiology, Production, QC, QA, Sales and Marketing, Shipping, Administration and Finance.
List Labs carries on the values instilled by Linda Shoer and continues to grow our team, our capabilities and experience. We are excited to see what the next 40 years bring!
The origin of businesses is often an interesting story. List Biological Laboratories is no exception. The company was founded in 1978 by Linda Shoer. Linda was an entrepreneurial scientist in Silicon Valley, who’d been relocated with her husband from Boston. She had an idea for a company and leveraged an initial order into a loan from a bank, fearless that her vision would be successful. That order and loan served as the starting point for List Laboratories. The first product was a Cholera Toxin.
List Labs Develops Full Range of Bacterial Toxins and Contract Manufacturing Services
Linda had a clear plan for the company and it involved the development of a product line devoted exclusively to Bacterial Toxins and related products. List Labs was the first to commercialize many bacterial toxins for research including C. difficile Toxins and Pertussis Toxins.
Linda was well connected and comfortable networking with colleagues and proposing new business ideas or ventures. She got the company involved in contract manufacturing and consulting early on. In the 90’s List Labs was instrumental in the manufacturing of a very popular injectable consumer product to smooth facial wrinkles. Upon her death, she left the business to the current management team; a team that has now worked together for over 20 years.
List Labs – Still Women-Owned and Cutting Edge
Shoer’s presence is still strongly felt and the company has always remained a women owned and operated business. In an era of takeovers and transition, List Laboratories has remained true to its founding and focus. Today, the List Labs catalog offers over 100 products including Toxins, Peptides, Antibodies and Lipopolysaccharides. Many of the employees have worked together for decades.
In 2008, the company built out a new lab, complete with state of the art equipment. List has produced several batches of high purity proteins used to test vaccines. Additionally, the company specializes in the production, shipment and handling of dangerous goods. In the last several years List Labs has worked on a variety of microbiome projects, custom fills, development work and special Select Agent projects on various subtypes of Botulinum Toxin. We have also provided GMP product for many phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. We enjoy the variety of work and welcome inquiries from new customers.
Today, List Labs takes great pride in its reputation for high quality products and exceptional customer service. The company works with businesses and organizations worldwide on custom projects or contract manufacturing opportunities as well as selling a broad array of toxins and related products. List Labs heart is in the science and the discovery of innovative solutions. Their office is located in Campbell, CA, in the Silicon Valley. If you have questions about any of our products or services, contact us today!
Fundastic believes in being objective and transparent when it comes to funding and financing for small businesses. The following is an interview between Fundastic writer Sarah Tang and List Labs President Dr. Karen Crawford.
View the original post here.
By: Sarah Tang
Fundastic Business Owner Stories
Dr. Karen Crawford is the president of List Labs, a manufacturing and contracting lab that was the first of its kind to commercialize many bacterial toxins for research. Since its establishment by Linda Shoer in 1978, List Labs has been female owned and operated. First a scientist, then a businesswoman, Dr. Crawford brings an analytical mindset to List Lab’s unique business operations.
How did you start your business?
Linda Shoer had her PhD, post-doctorate, and she wanted a career in science. Her sisters were also PhD scientists, and one was working at a pharmaceutical company which at the time was developing a vaccine against cholera. Shoer saw cholera toxin as a profitable product. Cholera toxin was not only needed for vaccine development but it was also useful in cell research. She approached a distributor and made a deal that if she produced a batch they would buy the product. Cholera toxin was List Lab’s first product.
I joined List Labs in 1989. My PhD involved growing bacteria and to learn how viruses replicated. I began my career teaching science. I moved to California when I had my two boys and at that stage of my life I wanted to do something related to children. I volunteered and became a science teacher in the Saratoga area. I left when I saw school funding decreasing. My kids had grown-up by then, too. So I interviewed with List Labs. Shoer’s work seemed truly interesting. They were producing many different products with a small team of about 10. We’re about 24 now, producing 100 different products.
How did you fund your business in the beginning?
Shoer took a small loan from local bank. It was just her in the beginning. She kept the operations small. Her first employee was the landlord’s granddaughter and they were just a few blocks away from our current location in a small 3-room lab.
Running the Business
How did you learn to run the business?
As a scientist I need to understand a problem and think about how to address it. It is the same for business, but in managing a company you work at a different level. My personality is about getting into the details to learn a lot about one thing. In business you become a person who knows a little about a lot. I need to know about insurance coverage, finances, dealing with personnel. But luckily because I have good people working for me I don’t have to know a lot about those things, just something.
Sigma, a distributor, was our first customer. Our customers are vaccine companies, universities, hospitals and government research. The product focus of our business is driven by the customers and they have changed dramatically since 1978. There was a point when almost everything we did was to support anthrax vaccine development. We were in the process of making non-toxic anthrax products to test vaccines when some people released anthrax spores wanting to create havoc. There was a lot of government funding going in that direction so our business shifted its focus to the anthrax product line. While switching focus to meet the needs of customers we have maintained a steadily growing product line.
Now people are into other things. For instance there’s a lot of money going into research with emerging viruses right now. The government wants bio-security, companies want to develop vaccines, and universities want to figure out how things work, and we have to understand all these points of view.
What’s the biggest mistake you made in the first year?
Not making the business modular. I brought the business into the current building which is bigger. A bigger facility means you need more business. There’s a lot of controlling factors on the design of a biological containment facility, and we wanted a design that could support different kinds of projects. If the business had been more modular you could take a piece out and put it to rest when you don’t have the business to fill it. But we built the facility as a single unit so we have to maintain the whole thing and that becomes a financial responsibility.
What’s the smartest thing you did in the first year?
Moving the business to a bigger facility – it’s the bad and the good. Overall it’s great. It gives us a lot more opportunities that wouldn’t come with a smaller less well designed facility.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
This work is really interesting. It was always my dream to go into research and in this business; I support research in labs throughout the world.
What’s the most challenging thing about running your own business?
Keeping projects coming in to fill our capacity. Marketing is our solution to that. Marketing used to be word of mouth. People would cite us in papers under their list of materials, and if someone wanted to try the same or similar experiment they would order from us. It used to be your network was the people you meet at meetings, people from your school and the people in the lab with you. We didn’t have the social media we have today which makes networking easier.
What’s the most surprising thing about running your own business?
I’m always surprised when people gather up forces and help me achieve something that I see as a goal. That’s always a delight. Somehow I feel like, oh my goodness, first off this has to be done and, two, I’ve got to do it myself. But then someone steps up and helps me do it.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
It would have to be Linda Shoer, the one who started the business; she was fearless. She was able to go out and do cold-call kind of introductions to get business. She did quite well that way. She was also good at making relationships with people that could help her. She had a good way of getting people to feel that she needed their help and they would help her. I think women can be especially good at that, appearing to need help.
What I’ve Learned
What do you wish you had known before you had started your business?
Establish good contacts– people who can do things for you, because you can’t do everything yourself. When I first started Linda had a handful of people she could always call. There was the the electrician, the accountant, the lawyer you could always call. The business has become more complicated as we’ve grown but we always have people we can call on.
If you could go back to when you were starting your business, what advice would you give yourself?
If I were to do another business like this I would make it more modular. It’s hard to imagine it when you have a business that depends upon a lot of infrastructure. This is a pretty unusual business and it’s hard to be ready when the business expands and contracts. It’s not anything I’ve seen done, to have a facility that’s a big shell and having little functional pieces that can be put together, but I think it can be done.
About the Author — Sarah is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley where she learned to love the diverse personalities of mom-and-pop stores. She likes intriguing storefronts, creative specialty stores, and well-designed business websites.