David Schwartz was born in 1923 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend college after serving in World War II as part of the Army Signal Corps. He met his wife, Alice, in a class at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a degree in chemistry and she earned a degree in biochemistry. The couple cofounded Bio-Rad in 1952.
The idea that would launch Bio-Rad came about during a student bridge game in early 1952. The Schwartzes and the other bridge players joked about products that should be available but weren’t on the market, such as tobacco mosaic virus, which Alice was using for scientific research and which required many days to prepare. Schwartz questioned why no one was manufacturing it and got an idea: why not create the tobacco mosaic virus and sell it to researchers? With the virus prepared for them in advance, researchers would save days of prep work and would be able to begin their research projects immediately.
The following day, the Schwartzes put the idea into motion by searching their Berkeley neighborhood for a site to launch a company that would provide products and tools to researchers. After they found a suitable site, they sent away for tobacco seeds. Once the tobacco mosaic virus was ready to be shipped, the couple came upon a stumbling block: they discovered that the world was not eagerly awaiting tobacco mosaic virus. But they persisted. Over the coming years they developed other more marketable research products that helped the company survive and grow. For more than 50 years Bio-Rad has thrived, playing a lead role in the advancement of scientific discovery and helping people live longer, healthier lives.
Under Schwartz’s guidance the company has maintained a spirit of entrepreneurial adventure through the years and has evolved into a global enterprise, manufacturing and distributing a broad range of products for the life science research and clinical diagnostics markets. Bio-Rad is internationally renowned among hospitals, universities, and major research institutions, as well as biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. It serves more than 75,000 research and industry customers through its global network of operations. Bio-Rad employs over 5,000 people and has grown to over $1 billion in revenues.
Schwartz has cofounded and served on the boards of several companies, but his primary focus over the years has been fostering the growth of Bio-Rad. Schwartz was named a finalist for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2003 and the organization presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. He received the Pittcon Heritage Award in 2007.