FARGO Aldevron is poised to enter a new era with its planned acquisition for $9.6 billion by Danaher Corp. in a deal that will enable the firm to accelerate "next steps" as it serves the burgeoning bioscience sector.

Danaher announced Thursday, June 17, that it has a "definitive agreement" to purchase privately held Aldevron, the Fargo-based biotechnology company that has been a major hub for making a key ingredient for COVID-19 vaccines.

Aldevron, founded in 1998 in a small laboratory on the campus of North Dakota State University by Michael Chambers and John Ballantyne, has been growing with what a top executive called "breakneck speed."

The company, with a growing headquarters campus in south Fargo, employs about 600 people and manufactures high-quality plasmid DNA, mRNA and proteins for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical customers engaged in research, clinical and commercial applications.

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Aldevron will operate as a standalone operating company and maintain its brand within Danaher's life sciences segment.

"We are thrilled to have Aldevron join Danaher's Life Sciences segment," Rainer M. Blair, Danaher's president and CEO, said in a statement. "For nearly 25 years, Aldevron has made tremendous contributions to the advancement of cell, gene and other novel therapies and vaccines.

"This acquisition will expand our capabilities into the important field of genomic medicine and help us support our customers and their critical mission to bring more life-saving therapies and vaccines to market faster."

Danaher's stock closed 5% higher on Thursday after the deal was announced.

Kevin Ballinger, left, is Aldevron's CEO, and Michael Chambers is executive chairman of the biotech company based in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
Kevin Ballinger, left, is Aldevron's CEO, and Michael Chambers is executive chairman of the biotech company based in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Chambers, Aldevron's executive chairman and co-founder, said joining Danaher will "help us expand our global reach and harness the power of the Danaher business system to continue supporting our customers with best-in-class products and services."

He added: "I'm incredibly excited for Aldevron to take this pivotal next step with Danaher and look forward to the tremendous impact we can make together in the expanding area of genomic medicine."

North Dakota officials cheered the announcement, which they said showcases the state's entrepreneurial talent and appears to set a new record for a corporate acquisition of a homegrown company.

"It'd be probably the largest acquisition of an organically developed, North Dakota-based company," said James Leiman, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

In 2007, Doosan acquired Bobcat for $4.9 billion. Even allowing for inflation, which would be about $7.65 billion in today's dollars. That was the largest acquisition of a company started in North Dakota that compares to Danaher's planned purchase of Aldevron that Leiman could cite.

Another noteworthy acquisition of a homegrown North Dakota company was Microsoft's acquisition of Great Plains Software in a stock deal valued at $1.1 billion in 2000.

The Microsoft and Aldevron campuses, in fact, are within sight of one another in south Fargo and Bobcat's headquarters in West Fargo is 5 miles from Aldevron.

Great Plains Software, 21 years old when sold, was led by now Gov. Doug Burgum, who applauded Aldevron's achievements.

“Aldevron’s announced acquisition by Danaher, a leading Fortune 500 science and technology innovator, is a fantastic outcome for the entire Aldevron team and for North Dakota," he said.

"This transaction completely validates the Aldevron founders’ belief that a world-class biosciences company could be built and headquartered in our state,” Burgum added.

Aldevron's acquisition by Danaher bodes well for the future, given Danaher's track record of allowing its companies a great deal of independence, Burgum said.

“With Danaher’s long-standing practices of having their portfolio companies retain their brand and autonomy and giving them access to Danaher’s global reach and strategic systems, this is an even better outcome for everyone involved with Aldevron than a successful IPO," he said.

"Aldevron’s announcement is exciting and inspirational news for all current aspiring North Dakota entrepreneurs," Burgum added, "as it establishes a new high-water mark valuation for a North Dakota startup and moves Aldevron into the pantheon of great companies in our state’s history.”

The transaction is subject to "customary conditions," Danaher said in the announcement, including regulatory approvals.

Danaher, which has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., describes itself as a "global science and technology innovator" with a "family of world class brands" with leading positions in health care, environmental and other markets.

Described as a "company of companies," Danaher has more than 20 operating companies, a global workforce of about 69,000 under a "common culture and operating system, the Danaher business system."

Danaher reported revenues in 2020 of $22.2 billion.

This is what the new 14-acre Aldevron campus will look like when an addition and new building are added in south Fargo. Special to The Forum
This is what the new 14-acre Aldevron campus will look like when an addition and new building are added in south Fargo. Special to The Forum

EQT Private Equity, a global investment firm, acquired a majority stake in Aldevron in 2019, enabling the company's rapid growth, including its growing campus in Fargo.

EQT's majority interest coincided with investments by TA Associates as well as Aldevron founders and managers.

“Aldevron is integral to the development and supply of new types of therapies that address previously incurable medical conditions," said Eric Liu, a partner and co-head of EQT's global healthcare unit. "We are proud to have supported Aldevron and its mission to deliver the highest quality products that help improve patient lives across the world. "

Chambers and Ballantyne formed the company as they were graduating from NDSU, with Chambers taking the leading business role and Ballantyne serving as chief scientific officer.

As reported earlier by The Forum, Aldevron has manufactured key ingredients for millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines and has been a key hub in the supply chain for mRNA vaccine produced by Moderna.