An article in Washington Business last week incorrectly identified the site of Life Technologies' new training center. The facility is in Germantown. The amount of a contract granted to the Center for Health Policy Studies Inc. by the Health Resources Services Administration was incorrectly reported in last week's Contracts column. The correct amount was $200,480. (Published 11/5/90)

As the only profitable biotechnology company in the Washington area, Life Technologies Inc. is doing what its local brethren can't: It is expanding.

Then again, Life Technologies is a little different from its industry neighbors. Rather than trying to develop or manufacture the next wonder drug, it sells the basic supplies needed by research and commercial laboratories. Its products range from equipment used by researchers growing cells to enzymes used in microbiological procedures involving DNA, the material inside a cell that gives it a unique genetic fingerprint.

So Life Technologies has a steady demand for its products, even from the local biotechnology companies that are suffering financial losses while they go through arduous product-development and federal-approval processes.

In response, Life Technologies has opened two new facilities: a 51,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Frederick, Md., and a 7,500-square-foot training office in Beltsville, Md., partly to ease the strain on its now-cramped Gaithersburg headquarters and partly to take advantage of a boom the company expects in the industry in the next few years.

If a company that uses Life Technologies's materials should get a "big hit" with a product, said Joseph C. Stokes, chief financial officer of the company, Life Technologies can expect to see significant orders for more.

"There's been a lot of smoke -- a lot of discussion and conjecture about how successful the biotech industry has been," said Stokes. "But there haven't been that many products produced that have reached the market in the last couple of years."

Observers of the biotech industry generally agree that the biotech revolution has only just begun, said Walt Plosila, president of the Suburban Maryland High Technology Council.

"The industry really has not yet reached maturity," Plosila said. "Obviously as the biotech industry grows in this country, {companies} are going to be using more and more reagents and cultures and other supplies."

While only four or five end products, as opposed to biotech supplies, have reached the market nationwide in the last few years, Plosila said, there are 40 to 50 products undergoing clinical trials by the Food and Drug Administration, awaiting the approval before reaching the commercial market.

The scheduled 14 percent increase in federal funding in 1991 for the National Institutes of Health could raise Life Technologies's presence in the public and private sectors, Plosila said.

"You look at Life Technologies, at their revenue performance, and you see they have a niche already. They're an established supplier," he said.

Life Technologies has about 20,000 customers worldwide. About half of its sales are to non-U.S. companies, Stokes said. In the third quarter of 1990, its revenue was $38.2 million, up 19 percent over the same period last year.

"We ... expect to grow somewhere between 15 to 18 percent every year," he said.

Along with the growth in the industry, however, comes the need for researchers to learn constantly about the advances being made in the field, Stokes said. Just like medical doctors who read journals and attend seminars to keep abreast of the latest medical developments and discoveries, researchers and manufacturers must be aware of the newest products and procedures.

Life Technologies opened its training center in Beltsville to offer two- and three-week classes to its customers on how to use the latest research techniques and the company's newer supplies, Stokes said.

"The science is moving so fast, even the specialists cannot afford not to be kept up to date," Stokes said.