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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Change An Industry

Kim Blickenstaff, Chairman / CEO,  has been hugely successful in spite of all  experts who told him it would be impossible -- that they had "a stupid idea."   More...

Key Question:


Start something that will pull the rug out from under the leaders with your industry.  Be that innovative. 

These three were.  They knew that big, bulky and slow was out.  Small, sleek and fast was in.

They could remember how the first computers filled a room the size of a basketball stadium.  Today, 1000-times more power computers fit in the palm of your hand.
Kim, Ken and Gunars could see it coming. Their first little diagnostic computers crunched data any time, any where, by virtually anybody.  They were onto something.  They could see how by inventing increasingly smaller, faster and more accurate  diagnostic equipment could made a huge improvement in the quality of health care.

It did.

Biosite  totally changed the diagnostic medical industry. Hospitals didn't need large spaces for bulky machines. Lab technicians and EMC teams could run tests and have results on the fly.  And best of all, they all, including the doctors and patients, didn't have to wait hours or days for results.

Q: How hard is it to change an industry?

A: Almost impossible. Especially when multi-billion dollar companies are anchored in place and have much to lose if you win. These three had a perfect formula plus a driving passion to make their world and ours a better place.

Questions for this clip: 1 | 2

Think about it

What needs to change in your industry? Where are the opportunities for the renegades? Are you the right one to go after the opportunity? Are you the mentor and funding source for someone else to take on the problem?

Clip from: Biosite is helping to save healthcare.

San Diego: Early insights by three people, Dr. Gunars Valkirs, Kim Blickenstaff and Dr. Ken Buechler, opened the way to develop devices that are now used virtually every second of a day to aid hundreds of thousands of emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors and patients to diagnose medical conditions faster and more accurately. In this episode of the show, you will see their little device, Biosite Triage® for rapid diagnostic testing, in action.

When they had the idea, everyone told them, "You're crazy. No way! It'll never work." 

They began their business in 1988. Today, it is a global organization with annual revenues over $250 million. And it is all based on a product line that never ever existed before they created it. The firm's first product, The Triage Drugs of Abuse Panel, was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992.

They didn't stop there. They now test for congestive heart failure, heart attack, and a long check list of diseases with very strange names. Beyond their unstoppable energy and passion for continued research and exploration is the belief that their success to date does not begin to scratch the surface of the potential of diagnostics. Here you look into the heart of creativity.  

Editor's Note:  Since this episode was taped, Biosite was purchases by Innverness Medical Innovations.

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Biosite, Inc.

Kenneth Buechler, co-founder, President, Chief Scientific Officer

9975 Summers Ridge Road
888.BIOSITE (Customer Service)
San Diego, CA 92121

Visit our web site:

Office: 858.805.8378

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1988

Change An Industry

HATTIE: (In the Studio) Hi, I'm Hattie Bryant. By bucking the system, thinking without a box and committing to thousands of steps along the innovation process, three men have broken through.

Because of their work healthcare is better today than it was 10 years ago and the future is brighter for all of us. In San Diego California a haven for biotech start-ups, meet the founders of Biosite. Kim Blickenstaff is CEO. Dr. Ken Buechler is President and Chief Scientific Officer. And Dr. Gunars Valkirs is Senior Vice President for Biosite Discovery. Let's go inside.

KIM BLICKENSTAFF: Well let me tell you what it's like to have 10 out of 10 Harvard MBAs that look to your business plan and say it's a stupid idea. I mean that gets to be tough. I mean they do their own checks with their own clinician's that they talk to. They talk to people that have been in the industry that you're in. A lot of market leaders view new product approaches as being stupid because it's new and innovative and that's not what they're doing.

GUNARS VALKIRS: I think what we did right was we identified the first product opportunity correctly when even some of the experts in the drug-testing field said this market does not exist; there's no demand for this test in the hospital, and we're talking about the CEO of a company that was the leading drug testing company in the world said there's no market for this product.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) While the competitors stick with bulky machines that need a lab technician to run, Biosite's products are portable and simple to use. The competition is not able to deliver a result at night or over the weekend when the lab is closed, and Biosite's products can give the clinician test results 24/7 in 15 minutes.

KEN BUECHLER: Well it actually occurred to us in about 1988, 1987 that there was a need for a rapid diagnostic at that time for drugs of abuse. And obviously patient's come into emergency rooms suffering from drug overdose of any kind of drug, prescription or nonprescription drugs, and that patient needs help immediately because the patient could be overdosing.

GUNARS: We believe there was a market for it because we had tested the market and people said that they needed a test like this, so it was completely the opposite of what one of the thought leaders thought.

HATTIE: Why do you think your industry has been so stuck?

KEN: I think it's been stuck because of this so-called installed base. And what the installed base is in our industry are big laboratory analyzers that measure one protein at time. And what we recognize, part of our innovations is the ability to measure more than one protein at a time. And the reason that's important is because the diseases that people actually have that need to be diagnosed, for example, heart attacks or acute myocardial infarctions, these diseases have different ideologies. And because they have different ideologies they also change as a function of time. And as they change the protein markers profile also changes in the blood. So this means then that if one measures more than one protein at a time you'll really get a much better idea of what the patient may be suffering from.

GUNARS: The large diagnostic companies have evolved their technology platforms to the point where the only thing they focus on is making a machine bigger and faster so that the results can be delivered cheaper. They're not delivering a different result, it's the same result they delivered 30 years ago, they're trying to deliver it a little bit cheaper, and by a little bit I mean $2.50 instead of $3. That's a big deal in the diagnostics business. But if you look at the overall cost of healthcare, the 50 cents they're saving there is lost because they spent $5,000 extra on the patient because they misdiagnosed the patient, sent them to the wrong level of care and the patient spent three days in the ICU or some other ward when they could have been sent home. And vice versa they sent somebody else home that died because they should've been in the hospital.

HATTIE: Right.

GUNARS: And that's what we've done. We've basically packaged with this robotic instrument does into a very simple plastic device. And it's a technological advance. But in the case of acute illness where the result is necessary in a rapid timeframe to make decisions, that's really where our technology shines.

Unidentified employee: The test is really simple. It requires a drop, literally, a drop of blood to be placed on a plastic cartridge. And then it sits there for 15 minutes and then you put it into a reader. You get a number and that is it.


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