CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If David Scholl had given up on the Athens, Ohio-based startup biotech company that launched in the early 1980s, the company might not have sold for $130 million three years ago.
Scholl, the former president and chief executive officer of Diagnostic Hybrids Inc., spoke to a group of about 100 representatives from private companies, university researchers and biosciences suppliers and backers at the third annual West Virginia Biosciences Summit Thursday at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.
Diagnostic Hybrids is a bioengineering firm that specializes in medical test kits using cellular and molecular technology. Hospitals and reference laboratories use its kits for viral respiratory infections such as herpes, chlamydia, and Influenza A and B viruses.
A biomedical entrepreneur founded the company in 1983 with two Ohio University professors when Scholl was a graduate student at the southeastern Ohio college.
Quidel Corp., a California-based corporation traded on NASDAQ, acquired the once privately held company for $130 million in cash in 2010. Quidel's products detect and diagnose many critical conditions, including cancer, bone health, pregnancy and infectious diseases.
Scholl said for the first 12 years, he and the rest of Diagnostic Hybrids' small staff felt like their heads were underwater. The company had spent $5 million in that time without much to show for it, he said.
"They're going to tell you you're going to lose money in the beginning," Scholl said.
Diagnostic Hybrids broke even in 1998 when it landed Quest Diagnostics, its first "big customer," he said. The company, which provides clinical laboratory services, had 17 different sites across the nation, including one in Charleston.
West Virginia was one of 34 states that saw job gains in the biosciences industry between 2001 and 2010, according to a report released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Battelle, a nonprofit independent research and development organization.
More than 6,400 West Virginians work in the bioscience industry, a 22 percent increase in a decade.
The U.S. biosciences industry grew by 6.4 percent from 2001 to 2010, adding more than 96,000 jobs, according to the report. The majority of those added jobs were in research, testing and laboratories.
Fritz Bittenbender, vice president of alliance development and state government at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said the Mountain State's growth in the industry "is tremendous for your state."