Mannheim's Pioneering Spirit
How a young start-up could revolutionize antibody production
As a student, he had enough of the cumbersome work with bioreactors. Too many steps were necessary for the cultivation of cell cultures. Today, Valentin Kramer (left) is Managing Director of AUCTEQ Biosystems in Mannheim - a start-up that develops a growing bioreactor. Thanks to Kramer's invention, vital medicines could come onto the market faster in the future. Now, the start-up has been awarded the Roche-sponsored MEXI Existenzgründungspreis (Business Start-Up Award), a prize that promotes bold founders with innovative ideas.
The single-use bioreactor consists of an extremely elastic “bubble” which grows with the increasing volume of the cell cultures. This saves plastic waste, time and protects the environment.
A growing bioreactor
Breeding cell cultures for antibody production is a laborious task. Several vessels are needed for a culture to grow to the desired size of 20 liters. Thereafter, the containers are disposed or – if they consist of stainless steel or glass – cleaned elaborately. These manual seed train processes are very labor intensive and susceptible to germs. This is where Kramer's invention comes in: “This has to be easier”, the former biotechnology student thought. He had had enough of the innumerable, time-consuming intermediate steps…
Courage, perseverance and a lot of willpower
In his spare time, Kramer made his first attempts to produce expandable bioreactors from standard condoms. They have to expand up to 20 liters without bursting - perfect conditions? Kramer kept tinkering with his unusual prototypes, sterilized them and developed a closure for the opening to which hoses and containers are attached. This brought him closer and closer to his goal: a single use-bioreactor that expands and adapts uncomplicated to the volume of the cell culture.
For Kramer and his team, the MEXI was a win in two respects. Attention in the media has brought the start-up some requests from interested companies. “And of course it's perfect for us to have contacts with Roche now,” says Kramer. Dr. Ursula Redeker, spokeswoman for the management of Roche Diagnostics GmbH, is certain: “Our location in Penzberg, which is one of the largest biotechnology centers in Europe, will be very interested in the invention of the young start-up from Mannheim.”
In the metropolitan region, many courageous business founders settle down. Roche benefits from this dense network. The company is constantly reviewing new technologies and research approaches, because innovation is the foundation of today's and tomorrow's therapies. As the second largest employer in the city, Roche assumes social responsibility and supports young talents. This commitment is our contribution to securing the future of Mannheim as a business and knowledge location in a global context.