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In the late 1960s, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln started a large project to develop sorghum as a food product. William Biggs was hired to develop research instruments for the project. One of the instruments Biggs helped design – an accurate, inexpensive sensor and meter for measuring photosynthetically active radiation – was described in an article in the journal Ecology. Soon after, scientists from laboratories around the world began requesting similar instruments. In 1971 Biggs cofounded the Lambda Instruments Corporation to manufacture these sensors and other products. The name was formally changed to LI-COR in 1978.
As LI-COR grew, the staff continued developing instruments to supplement the existing line of light sensors, porometers, and spectroradiometers. The explosive growth in DNA fragment analysis and biotechnology research inspired LI-COR’s early forays into gene sequencing technology. This led to the development of LI-COR’s two product lines: Biotechnology and Environmental. While these product lines are distinct, they share one common element – measuring biological parameters based on the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and physical matter.
In the early 1980s, LI-COR developed a portable photosynthesis system. The prototype model, which was described as resembling a bag pipe, was among the first portable photosynthesis systems ever built. LI-COR scientists and engineers found innovative solutions to nearly all the technical challenges of building the instrument, but one problem remained: no company manufactured an infrared gas analyzer with the performance, reliability, and low cost required for a research quality photosynthesis system. LI-COR went to work developing its own infrared gas analyzer, which was used in the second generation photosynthesis system – the LI-6200 Portable Photosynthesis System.
Because LI-COR developed an infrared gas analyzer that delivered higher performance at lower cost than other commercially available CO2 analyzers at that time, the company made a few minor modifications, added a sensor housing and control panel, and marketed its first stand-alone CO2 analyzer. This was the first generation instrument in LI-COR’s standard setting line of infrared gas analyzers.
Recognizing the potential of infrared dyes to improve reliability, accuracy, and performance of gene sequencing instruments, LI-COR explored new applications of infrared dye detection. The Model 4000 Automated DNA Infrared Sequencer garnered national attention when it was released in 1992. The 4000L Long Read Sequencing System, introduced a year later, set global standards for long read lengths and accuracy.
Building upon the success of the LI-6200, LI-COR developed the innovative LI-6400 Portable Photosynthesis System. In addition to providing scientists with a robust and reliable instrument, the LI-6400 was developed to support many novel and custom accessories, giving scientists the ability to measure numerous biological parameters that were previously unattainable. The LI-6400 is the most cited photosynthesis system in published scientific journals.
LI-COR infrared gas analyzers have rapidly become the world standard in atmospheric, industrial, and oceanographic research. The innovative LI-7500, an open path CO2/H2O analyzer, was introduced in November of 1999 and the high precision LI-7000 closed path CO2/H2O analyzer followed in 2000. Another versatile, innovative instrument, the LI-8100 Automated Soil CO2 Flux System, delivers highly accurate measurements of soil CO2 flux with minimal alteration of the natural soil microclimate. The system features chambers for making both short-term survey and long-term, unattended measurements. In 2009, LI-COR introduced the world’s first open path methane analyzer for eddy covariance studies, the LI-7700.
In 2001, LI-COR released the Odyssey® Infrared Imaging System. The Odyssey delivers superior 2-color Westerns with clear, sharp bands in a fraction of the time and cost of chemiluminescence, and features unprecedented direct detection for a variety of applications, including Western blots, In Cell Westerns, and protein and DNA gels.
The 4300 DNA Analysis System was introduced in 2003. The 4300 System now includes comprehensive application packages for DNA sequencing, Microsatellite analysis, AFLP® analysis, reverse genetics (Tilling®), and SNP discovery (Ecotilling). The Aerius Automated Infrared Imaging System, which was released in 2004, introduced fully automated analysis of infrared plate based assays, such as In-Cell Westerns, with extreme sensitivity and efficiency. The Pearl Near-Infrared In-Vivo Animal Imaging System was released in 2008.
Both the Biotechnology and Environmental product lines have diversified over time. LI-COR’s expertise with visible and infrared markers has led to the development of numerous instruments and applications in biological research, expanding possibilities in studies of drug discovery and DNA fragment analysis. LI-COR’s team of scientists and engineers continue to develop cutting edge instruments that provide researchers and scientists with the tools needed to measure changes in the world today.
LI-COR scientists and engineers remain closely involved with the scientific community by conducting seminars, developing training and educational materials, participating in scientific meetings, and publishing work in leading scientific journals. By maintaining close relationships with academic, governmental, and industrial research institutions, LI-COR develops products that are at the forefront of modern technology for research in the biological and environmental sciences. LI-COR customers are committed to conducting excellent research, and the company's mission is to facilitate this research by providing high quality system solutions and uncompromised customer support.