For Norgen Biotek Corp.’s CEO and president, Dr. Yousef Haj-Ahmad, 2018 marks a significant year in career as a leading mind in the biotechnology industry. He, along with his dedicated employees at Norgen Biotek Corp., are celebrating 20 years of excellence in DNA and RNA sample preparation kits, highly customized manufacturing, and best-in-class Research and Development Services including Next Generation Sequencing.
Located in the Niagara region in Ontario, Canada, the company has grown to serve thousands customers all over the globe. For 20 years Norgen has overcome challenges in ever-evolving biotech industry, and has steadily developed strong, lasting relationships with other leading biotech companies all over the world. With all of the achievements and milestones Norgen has met, it is clear that they will continue to move forward providing first-in-class products and customer support, and continue to lead the way for the next 20 years onward in the biotech industry.
It was in 1989 after Dr. Haj-Ahmad had left a laboratory position at Labatt Brewing Company in London, ON when he joined the faculty at Brock University. Here he began sharing his knowledge with hundreds of eager students and future scientists. During his time at Brock, Dr. Haj-Ahmad built a biotech company that quickly went public. Over time, this company relocated to Montreal, QC and Dr. Haj-Ahmad elected to sell his shares and to remain in Niagara. Soon thereafter, Dr. Haj-Ahmad founded Norgen Biotek Corporation.
When Dr. Haj-Ahmad first opened Norgen in 1998, the company’s main focus was to create and sell biotechnology products. While sales were fairly slow-going at first, Dr. Haj-Ahmad and his employees impressively remained optimistic about the company and its future. Tom Hunter, who is Norgen’s first employee and currently is the International Sales & Marketing Manager, recollects,
“We would be pretty happy if we had one order every couple of weeks…in the beginning”.
Norgen would eventually outgrow its humble beginnings in St.Catherines and move into a state-of-the-art facility located in Thorold, Ontario that could more aptly suit the company’s needs and meet the high standard of quality that had become expected of Norgen. Here, Dr. Haj-Ahmad and his team could expand beyond the original vision for the company and push the envelope in products and services. Hunter continues,
“A major difference [compared to the beginning] is in the variety and range of products and services we have developed and, in turn, the markets this allowed us to access. We can now offer a full workflow for our customers – collect, preserve, isolate and detect with Norgen products. We have also expanded our reach around the world dramatically, offering our customers leading edge kits and services to meet increasingly advanced applications and facilitate their research “.
Norgen’s impressive habit of overcoming challenges and constantly innovating products and services hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of Norgen’s new talent either. A recent graduate, Michelle Stopher, whom is quickly making an impression at Norgen as a sales and marketing representative explains,
“Even though only a year has passed since I began working at Norgen, it is obvious that Norgen is currently undergoing considerable growth and advancement, not only in terms of profit but in physical expansion as well.”
Norgen's Sales & Marketing in 2018
Stopher is not the only new talent that Norgen has recently brought into the fold. Fresh new hires in marketing, manufacturing and R&D have also been keen to contribute their skillsets to Norgen. Stopher has an idea as to what makes Norgen such an attractive place to work for young talent looking to get a head start with their careers,
“As a Norgen employee, I feel very valued and appreciated. I feel as though my feedback, ideas and suggestions are always acknowledged and respected.”
All the while, Ugulini finds the experience rewarding,
“When I started at Norgen Biotek, I quickly realized this was an environment […] I could learn numerous skills and acquire so much knowledge […] I have learned more in the last 5 + years than I have learned in all of my years of schooling before that.”
As the biotech industry continues to grow at an incredible rate yielding new discoveries in technologies, methods and knowledge, Dr. Haj-Ahmad remains confident that Norgen will continue to position itself and stay one step ahead of the curve. Considering in just the past 20 years – the time in which Norgen has been a part of the industry – Biotechnology has witnessed rapid advancements in all branches of the industry. Dr. Haj-Ahmad notes that,
“There were many advancements and discoveries, among the most important are: advancements in Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), very rapid and inexpensive DNA Sequencing, the discovery of micro-RNA and the discovery of free circulating DNA, exosomes, etc…”
With many crucial discoveries occurring within Norgen’s lifetime, Dr. Haj-Ahmad stresses the importance of evolving with each new breakthrough,
“Norgen evolved along with the advancements in biotechnology. A company like Norgen Biotek ought to be at the leading edge; it is not an option to be at the leading edge, it is a must.”
CEO/President - Dr. Y. Haj-Ahmad, PhD, MSc
It falls on companies like Norgen Biotek to unlock the untapped potential in biotechnology. Breakthroughs in biotechnology lead to advancements in pharmacology, pathogen detection, and cancer screening technologies – a small sample of how the industry effects other areas of science. It remains vital that companies that specialize in biotechnology, continue to help shape these advancements. The passion that innovators like Dr. Haj-Ahmad and his team at Norgen share, along with providing the products, services and technical support that are necessary to advance these discoveries, will push Norgen forward for the next 20 years and beyond.
“I am proud of what we accomplished over the past 20 years and I am confident we will continue to march on as long as we keep investing heavily in R&D[…]The Biotechnology revolution is moving and advancing at a rapid rate and will keep on advancing for decades to come.”
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