Meridian Bioscience founder Bill Motto just might be Ohio’s first bioscience entrepreneur.

(from right to left) Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Motto, former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Executive Assistant Brenda Hughes, CEO Jack Kraeutler

In late June, Motto received an honorory degree during Cincinnati State’s commencement ceremony. The backgrounder sent out by Cincinnati State reveals a fascinating story of a dedicated entrepreneur with faith in his idea. 

William J. “Bill’’ Motto is the founder (1977) and currently the Executive Chairman of the Board of Meridian Bioscience, Inc.

Meridian is a fully integrated life science company that manufactures, markets and distributes a broad range of innovative diagnostic test kits, purified reagents and related products and offers biopharmaceutical enabling technologies.

These products and diagnostic tests are used in the early diagnosis and treatment of common medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal, viral and respiratory infections. Meridian is based in the Cincinnati suburb of Newtown. It markets its products and technologies to hospitals, reference laboratories, research centers, veterinary testing centers, physician offices, diagnostics manufacturers and biotech companies in more than 60 countries.

Mr. Motto was born in 1941 in Hazelwood, Penn., to a family of Hungarian immigrant factory workers. Told he wasn’t intelligent enough for “regular’’ high school, he instead attended a vocational high school and focused on shoe-making, then worked in a steel mill after graduation before enlisting in the U.S. Navy from 1959-1963. Upon his discharge he attended Point Pleasant Community College.

After graduation he entered the pharmaceutical/diagnostics industry as a sales representative and sales manager.

While living in Cincinnati – with a wife and three young sons to support – he turned down a promotion in favor of taking the chance to start his own company. He took $500 and an idea (an efficient way to ship stool samples for testing to labs all over the country), and began Meridian Diagnostics in his basement. He used $250 to pay for the articles of incorporation, the balance for a refrigerator and a deal with a vial manufacturer. Today this product – albeit much improved – is shipped in the millions of units around the world.

That was the start of the company that Mr. Motto then nurtured into a worldwide, multi-faced industry leader.

In 1986 Mr. Motto took Meridian Diagnostics public. Today, Meridian has some 400 employees, affiliates and offices in seven countries and a market capitalization of approximately $1 billion.