Ambion® was started by Matt Winkler, a professor at the University of Texas. His research required the use of a large number of reagents that were collectively more expensive than his NIH grant could afford, so many needed reagents were made within his laboratory. These reagents were well received and appreciated by his colleagues,
spurring him to start a company to manufacture high-quality, cutting-edge reagents.

Ambion® was incorporated in November 1988 and began operations in July 1989 in Austin, Texas. The company's
primary focus was the development of products for RNA-related research applications. Ambion® grew at a compounded annual growth rate exceeding 30% per year through the development, manufacture, and selling of molecular biology reagents to the life science and diagnostic markets. Ambion® was privately held through February 2006.