Biocare Medical develops simultaneous Multiplex IHC tests for its customer base of clinical histology laboratories, biotechnology companies, nonprofit labs, and others.

The mission of Biocare Medical, Concord, Calif, is to serve its clients’ diagnostic needs, but perhaps more importantly; the company realizes that the real beneficiaries of its products are the patients. The company specializes in developing simultaneous Multiplex IHC tests for its customer base of clinical histology laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, CROs, and biotechnology companies as well as academic, government, military, and other nonprofit laboratories. However, the goal of providing improved patient care is never out of focus, and that is something that is not lost on Joe Vargas, director, Research and Development, Biocare Medical.

Joe Vargas

Joe Vargas, director, Research and Development

“Ultimately, it’s the patient that we’re looking at indirectly,” Vargas says. “We really focus on developing our products for their needs. Laboratories need to have the highest specificity possible to have the correct diagnosis for the patient. The goal is to make sure we do everything on our part to develop the highest-quality products so that pathologists can make the best diagnosis.

“Our quality is never an accident,” Vargas says. “It is a result of continuous improvement and dedicated efforts on our part. We are customer-based, and that’s what we strive for: to satisfy our customers’ needs and to continuously improve.”

Beginning as an electron microscopist, Vargas has held a variety of different positions throughout his career to gain full lab knowledge and learn new skills and techniques at each step along the way. Working for institutions such as the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Letterman Army Institute of Research, Vargas has learned techniques from in situ hybridization to immunohistochemistry, and has earned his HTL from the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Nevertheless, it was his research with animal tissues at the Letterman Army Institute of Research and UCSF that prepared him for his current role.

“The most recent products that I’ve had the most influence upon are the animal polymer detections: our FARMA line of polymers that are specifically designed to work on a variety of animal tissues,” Vargas says. “That’s part of our PromARK™ line where anyone interested in performing IHC on animal tissues can use mouse, goat, rabbit, or rat antibodies with our detection systems. The background is very low, it is extremely sensitive, and is our most recent development as far as our detections are concerned. With my considerable background in animal work, I was primarily responsible for overseeing development [along with David Tacha, HTL (ASCP), PhD, vice president of R&D, chief scientific officer]. There were always these inherent issues with cross-reactivity associated with using a general detection on animal tissues. We really worked considerably long hours in order to develop these products.”

Though Vargas takes pride in all of the work he performs, his proudest achievement at Biocare was his participation in the company’s molecular RISH™ product line, a simple in situ hybridization technology using proprietary DNA probes for rapid visualization of mRNA target expression.


Biocare Medical
Concord, Calif

“I’ve been involved with quite a few things here,” Vargas says. “I would say my proudest achievement at Biocare would be the contributions and assistance with the RISH, our molecular product line. This product line is relatively new to Biocare. I spent about 2 to 3 years working on this project, and I would say that’s probably my number one thing that comes to mind.”

Never one to forget the company’s mission, however, Vargas has also taken an active role in participating in technical support. He assists primarily with the molecular product lines to ensure the best results for clients. It is this dedication from both Vargas and the rest of Biocare that has afforded the company its continued success and awards.

“There are so many things that we’ve achieved here,” Vargas says. “We have a great team. Our Technical Support, our Education Center, and our R&D staff are very knowledgeable, and I don’t think there’s another competitor out there that has our capacity to support and respond to the client in the way we do. We have a good group of excellent specialists here. Without them, it would be a very difficult thing to move forward and continue to improve.”

Chris Gaerig is associate editor for CLP.