5.3. A Short History of FIAlab Instruments Sue and Gary Christian
In 1987, Andula Ruzickova and Sue Christian began a small business venture in which they would import high-quality peristaltic pumps from Alitea AB in Sweden and distribute them to North American laboratories. They called their new company Alitea USA. Over the next few years, they added some products based on the research and development of their husbands, Jarda Ruzicka and Gary Christian, in the expanding field of Flow Injection Analysis. The new instruments were dubbed "FIAlab," and the name was trademarked.
In 1995, Alitea USA was joined by Garth Klein, a physicist and engineer from the Boeing Company, who envisioned a larger role for the company. As president, he guided Alitea USA/FIAlab Instruments from 1995 to 2010. Garth wrote software, developed and improved new products, trained customers in FIA applications, and was the main spokesman and troubleshooter. Under his stewardship, FIAlab became known as a leader in flow injection technology, and the company grew from a home-based operation to a million dollar-plus business. FIAlab's instruments have been sold in 36 countries and deployed in all seven continents, yes, even including Antarctica. When the Swedish company Alitea AB was purchased in 2000 by pump manufacturer Watson-Marlow, Alitea USA needed a new name. By that time, the company was heavily focused on Flow Injection Analysis, and the logical choice was FIAlab Instruments, which had been their trademarked product name for several years. With Garth's software and Jarda's research, FIAlab developed some of the most sophisticated Flow Injection instruments and accessories on the market. Sadly, Andula and Garth are no longer with us. Andula passed away in 1995, and Garth in a SCUBA accident in 2010. Garth's tragic death was a serious blow to the company, but he had built such a strong foundation that it survived. FIAlab came under new ownership in 2011 and continues to make its mark on this growing field.
Sue and Gary, 2011, 50 years together Jarda and Gary, Krakov, 2011
Note that the original mailing address was Sue's home Post Office Box in Medina, and the phone was Andula's home number. For two years, Garth built FIAlabs in his wife's laundry room. This may be FIAlab's only similarity to Microsoft, Amazon, and Dell. Eventually, growth required moving to appropriate quarters in Bellevue, Washington, where the company continues to operate.