Rockford, IL-based Pierce Chemical Company was founded in 1948 when Dr. Alan Pierce assumed active management of a company known as Midwest Extraction, which focused on extracting chlorophyll from alfalfa. Chlorophyll, the material that lends a green color to plants, was discovered in the 1930s to have therapeutic uses including the treatment of infections and burns and was useful for performing amputations.
When Dr. Pierce assumed leadership of the company, his objective was to transition the firm from its humble origins manufacturing chlorophyll to a manufacturer of fine organic chemicals. His goal came to fruition when, in 1950, he changed the name of the company to Pierce Chemical Company and his newly renamed company was the first commercial producer of ninhydrin, a chemical used in amino acid analysis. For the first several years, the company focused on producing and selling ninhydrin, but it soon began to expand its horizons and look for other products and markets.
In 1965, Roy Oliver succeeded Dr. Pierce as company president; however, Dr. Pierce would stay on at Pierce until his retirement in 1994. During the next few decades, the company expanded its operations internationally when it joined forces with European distributors.
In the 1970s, a high-tech industry known as biotechnology began to emerge. The company's focus soon began to shift from concentrating on manufacturing bulk chemical products toward the development and production of high-purity reagents for biotechnology research.
In 1983, Perstorp AB, a Sweden-based company, purchased Pierce. Perstorp AB was a Swedish manufacturer of chemicals, resins, plastics, and laminates.
In 1985, researchers at Pierce Chemical Company, led by Paul K. Smith, published a method detailing the use of bicinchoninic acid (BCA) as a protein quantitation reagent. The BCA protein assay method maintains the high sensitivity and low variability among proteins associated with the Lowry protein assay, while providing increased tolerance to the presence of non-ionic detergents and buffer salts. The BCA assay has since become one of the most widely used methods of protein quantitation.
Pierce was recognized for its international marketing efforts in 1990 when it received the US President's "E" Award for success in exporting. Only 24 "E" awards were presented nationwide that year.
In 1995, Pierce Chemical Company introduced the patented SuperSignal Chemiluminescent Substrate for the chemiluminescent detection of biological molecules such as antibodies or pharmaceuticals. Chemiluminescence is the emission of light that occurs when a chemical reaction (in this case, between the SuperSignal Substrate and the tagged biological molecule) yields light. Researchers preserve the light signal on X-ray film or read the signal directly using an imager. Use of chemiluminescent technology allows researchers to replace radioactive tracers for greater personal safety and much less ecological impact.
The introduction of SuperSignal Substrate was one of many product introductions that propelled Pierce Chemical Company to become a leader in the areas of protein sample preparation, protein function and modification, and protein detection. The company would soon change its name to Pierce Biotechnology, Inc. to reflect its focus and expertise on these growing areas.
In June 1998, Pierce's parent company, Perstorp AB, announced several organizational changes, including the establishment of the separate Perstorp Life Science Division of which Pierce was a key player. In 1999, the Perstorp Life Science Division was spun off into its own company, Perbio Science AB. The new company was listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange O List in October 1999.
In August 2003, Fisher Scientific International announced its intent to purchase Perbio Science AB.
In November 2006, Thermo Electron and Fisher Scientific International merged to form Thermo Fisher Scientific. Today, the company formerly known as Pierce Chemical Company and Pierce Biotechnology Inc. is the research & development and manufacturing location for Thermo Scientific Pierce Protein Research Products.
In July 2008, Thermo Fisher Scientific acquired antibody provider Affinity BioReagents (ABR), with plans to integrate it into its Analytical Technologies Segment.