Next: an inspired test tube

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Our story begins, as many do, in a pub. Allistair Burns, a native of Glasgow, was chatting up a woman who worked in Roy Garvin’s microbiology lab in London. She asked Burns to cut her pizza. Being a gentleman, he did. But why did she need him to? On-the-job injury: fingers sliced from opening test tubes. Inspiration struck. “You should open it,” Burns said, “like a beer stein.” He took the idea to Garvin, and a prototype was made: a simple plastic tube with a tab on top that opens with the flick of a thumb — one-handed, easy, sanitary. Garvin, who had seen enough repetitive stress injuries from test tubes in his years of research, knew they had a winner. The pair joined forces, and when Garvin’s research fellowship in London ended, he brought Burns home with him to Southern Oregon, where Garvin owns a vineyard near Gold Hill. In the outbuildings of Sams Valley Vineyard, Microstein was born.  “We’ve been in a very strange position,” Garvin says about the Microstein product launch ($20 for 500) this fall. “Even before we had a final product we had dozens of orders.” Who says beer drinkers won’t save the world?   CHRISTINA WILLIAMS

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