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Our History

ATCC historic 1954 era, Washington, DC,  brick building façade with ATCC 2112.

ATCC through the years

Supplying scientists with essential biomaterials, services, and standards for nearly a century

1954 – One of ATCC’s early headquarters located at 2112 M St, Washington, DC, NW. 

ATCC evolves from microorganism collection to global biological resource center

For 95 years, ATCC has been compelled by its deep-rooted mission to improve global public health through advancements in science.

At its inception in the 1920s, ATCC was regarded as simply a microbe culture collection, a repository of microorganisms scientists could draw from to conduct their research to make new discoveries. Today, ATCC provides the world’s leading scientists with the largest and most diverse collections of biological materials, including not only microbe products but also cell products, molecular genomics tools, and nucleic acids. We've also provided services, such as cell authentication and a host of depositing resources. And we've continued to advocate for reproducibility in science, offering standards and high-quality products cited by agencies worldwide. As a result, we've become a trusted partner with members of the life science community, collaborating to improve global health and well-being and to address some of the world's greatest health threats.

 As we move into the next century, we’re committed to supporting science and the dedicated scientists behind it.

Ray Stapleton, headshot.

1925-27 – ATCC establishes its roots

1925 – ATCC is founded when a committee of scientists recognizes the need for a central collection of microorganisms that scientists worldwide can use to conduct their research to advance the science of microbiology.

1927 – The first ATCC catalog is published. The second edition two years later showed ATCC’s emphasis on quality control, noting 650 new cultures had been added, with extensive cross-referencing for more complete information. During its first dozen years, ATCC grew to house more than 2,000 strains despite the financial straits of the Great Depression. The Rockefeller Foundation provided an additional $10,000 in 1930, and ATCC started to charge for cultures to cover costs. 

1938-1959 – Cryopreservation and NCI cell line storage and distribution


Freezing and freeze-drying microorganisms became game-changing techniques that allowed researchers to compare cells’ reaction to a drug at set periods after exposure. The technologies would come to be represented by iconic images of ATCC's large liquid nitrogen freezers for cultures.


The National Cancer Institute proposes a standardized collection of cell lines. ATCC is designated the storage and distribution center, and its collection of cell lines and hybridomas becomes the most extensive in the world.

Closeup of icy, green roots and rod-shaped peas


Plant viruses are accepted and propagated at ATCC to support research in a variety of biomedical disciplines, from nanotechnology to vaccine development.

Flags of the world on a globe for international business, school, travel services and global management concept 3d illustration on blue background.


ATCC accepts patent materials from countries that have signed the Budapest Treaty, although ATCC had been accepting patent culture deposits since 1949.

1993 – ATCC leader expands company’s global vision

Dr. Raymond Cypess, 1993 headshot.

Raymond H. Cypess, DVM, PhD, named ATCC CEO and chairman

Dr. Raymond Cypess takes the helm of ATCC during the summer of 1993 with a clear purpose: To reinvigorate the organization, raise its profile in the biological sciences, and serve as a strong advocate for standards in biomaterials and information.

By the 2010s, Cypess’ efforts would pay off: He would transform ATCC into a self-sustaining biological resource center and vital resource for those pursuing advances in biological sciences. He would also successfully expand the understanding about the critical role of standards in the scientific enterprise.

Black and purple book cover for Transformation of an Icon

How ATCC transformed itself to serve an evolving life-science community

While Cypess would eventually guide ATCC from surviving to thriving, the journey was not an easy one. In his book Transformation of an Icon, Cypess recalls the seemingly insurmountable obstacles he saw when he first visited ATCC and interviewed for the position in 1993. ATCC was in financial crisis, struggling to survive, and plagued by aging facilities and a shaky infrastructure.

His book chronicles those challenges and how they were overcome as well as highlights the importance of science and scientific discovery. The story begins with the origins of ATCC’s founding collection in 1922 – 175 strains of microorganisms that were carefully curated for more than a decade by scientists throughout the world – so that researchers could use the materials to learn more to advance science.


1997-2000 – ATCC relocates and provides vital resources

Storage room of Biorepository Nitrogen Tanks

Closeup of Culex tarsalis mosquito biting skin.
Connecting, long, thin, fluorescent purple, umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells.

2007 – ATCC Standards accreditation by ANSI

The ATCC Standards Development Organization (ATCC SDO), an entity of ATCC, becomes the first biological resource organization to become accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a standards developing organization (SDO).

2010 – Research and development expands

ATCC launches major R&D and product development efforts to meet the growing needs of the life science community.

2012 – ATCC Standards on human cell line authentication and STR profiling

The ATCC SDO publishes its voluntary consensus standard, ASN-0002: “Authentication of Human Cell Lines: Standardization of STR Profiling” to help correct the long-standing problem of cell line misidentification affecting basic cell research, drug discovery, and translational medicine.

Female ATCC scientist wearing lab coat, protective glasses, and gloves handling an API strip at lab work station.
Aerial view of ATCC Gaithersburg, Maryland, biorepository building and parking lot.

CRISPR-Cas9 system iStock-859573154.jpg
Gray coronavirus sphere with red and orange protruding particles.

2019-Now – Supporting the global COVID-19 response

Following the outbreak of Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in December 2019, ATCC responded to the need for credible reference materials by developing four new quantitative synthetic RNA constructs for development and control of molecular-based detection assays. ATCC also acquired key SARS-CoV-2 isolates – including USA-WA1/2020, the North American reference strain, with plans to continue acquiring variants of concern in genomic and heat-inactivated formats.

AIDS ribbon, AIDS, ribbon, red, symbol, HIV, MADD, drug prevention,

2021 – Managing the HIV Reagent Program

ATCC is awarded a three-year contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to manage and operate its HIV Reagent Program. ATCC is tasked to supply the HIV/AIDS research community with no-cost, high-quality materials supporting the development and evaluation of therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics.


2023 – The HIV Reagent Program is merged with BEI Resources

The NIH HIV Reagent Program was merged with BEI Resources to enable streamlined access to all priority pathogens for human health under one program.