Further education with a commitment to invention

FINAL_Keyvisual_TaschenmesserAs an academic, what do I do if I have a good idea? How can I transfer my technology? Who will support me?

These and many other questions will be answered during our course “From Invention to Innovation”, held twice a year at the FTU (Fortbildungszentrum für Technik und Umwelt) at KIT. The programme is aimed at all academic staff and managers of KIT. It conveys fundamental knowledge on the protection and use of intellectual property.

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Founder of the Month April: 300MICRONS GmbH

300MICRONS designs and produces new 3D cell culture systems for the biological and pharmaceutical research and industry. The basic product is a film substrate for 3D cell cultivation. Own production of the film products makes it possible to take individual customer wishes into consideration. The products are ready to use and available in industrial standard formats. We interviewed Eric Gottwald, a co-founder of 300MICRONS, on the idea behind 300MICRONS, its founding period, and future prospects.

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300MICRONS team, from the left: Dr. Roman Truckenmüller, Dr. Stefan Giselbrecht, Prof. Dr. Eric Gottwald, Dr. Peter Haug, Rabea Petermann, David Thiele

What does your company stand for?

Cell culture experiments have been carried out for decades in culture vessels in which cells are grown in two dimensions. One can easily conceptualize that this is not exactly physiological. Although successful experiments with three dimensional cultures had already been carried out in the 1960’s, it was not until the end of the last millennium that the 3D culture systems were broadly accepted. There are different approach methods that can be used for the production of such 3D cultures. Classically, this is done using spherical cell aggregates. This approach however has various disadvantages, for instance, the limited suitability for high-throughput screening campaigns in the pharmaceutical industry.

Our 3D cell culture systems are film-based. The films are equipped with microscopic depressions (300µm in diameter and depth), the so-called micro-cavity arrays. Each depression can take several hundred to a thousand cells. The film products also contain several thousands of micro-cavities in the standard industry and research formats (micro-titer plates) – hence, this not only enables high-throughput screening of 3D cell cultures, but also the excellently automated microscopy of film systems.

The organotypic results could even supersede certain animal tests. A key USP of 300MICRONS is that we developed and patented the necessary technologies for the production of our film products over many years. This enables us to very flexibly and quickly go into the wishes of our customers and lays a very solid foundation for future development of more innovative products for the cell culture field.

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Where and how did you get this brilliant idea?

The increasing demand for our systems, triggered by scientific publications, existing collaborations, word of mouth and eventual winning of several start-up competitions prompted us to bring our ideas to the market.

How did your founding team come together?

Roman Truckenmüller and Stefan Giselbrecht developed the technology at the Institute for Micro-structure Technology (IMT) and the Institute for Biological Interfaces. I have worked for more than 20 years on the earlier models of the current 3D-cell culture systems. Peter Haug joined us after the acquisition of Helmholtz Enterprise funding as a founding angel and is now working on the advisory board of the company.

What would you say are the benefits of being your own boss?

Research at the KIT basically entailed working independently. In addition, you have the opportunity to act independently and present your own research findings to a wider audience. Of course, taking responsibility also means having to live with all the consequences.

What do you think are the properties that one should have to be a successful entrepreneur?

When one has decided to establish something, he/she puts in everything that is needed.

What would you term as the hurdles on the way to a successful business? Where did you get support?

Being a team that is purely from the science arena, positions in financial management, marketing, sales, and business development must be adequately filled. Through successful acquisition of Helmholtz Enterprise funds, the opportunity was opened for us to bring on a person for these areas of the company. Furthermore, networks such as those provided by Science4Life or BIOPRO are very helpful.

How did you deal with the large workloads during start-up?

This kind of a perspective somehow releases unimaginable energy and the scheduling and self-management also functions perfectly. In addition, clear division of tasks as well as prioritization of the tasks at hand also helps a lot.

Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

Just do it!

Quick overview:

  • Founders: Eric Gottwald, Stefan Giselbrecht, Roman Truckenmüller, Peter Haug
  • Founded in: 2014
  • Homepage: www.300microns.com
  • Contact: info@300microns.com
  • Fields: Bioscience, Health & Social services

“From Invention to Innovation” – Patents, licenses, and the perspective of founding

On March 16, 2015, the first of two advanced training events of this year for professional patent use began. KIT employees interested in the protection of intellectual property and technology utilization were invited. Using the title “From Invention to Innovation,” the KIT Innovation Department in cooperation with the Center for Advanced Technological and Environmental Training (FTU) informed its participants about the most important foundations and services at the KIT.

The half-day events of the program for advanced training WaTT (Wissensaufbau und Technologietransfer – Knowledge building and transfer of technology) were directed toward inventions that can develop into innovations through protection, e.g., in the form of patents ranging to commercialization. Innovations can thus find their way into the industry in the form of license agreements (technology transfer) or can form the basis of a spin-off. Technology transfer in the form of a spin-off plays an increasingly important role at the KIT. Therefore, part of the lecture concentrated on the offerings and founding services at the KIT. All participants received insight into the world of startups and spin-offs of the KIT. At the following get-together, there was enough time to reflect on the topics together with the participants. This way, for instance, the question could be resolved whether the spin-offs developed through the institute belong to the KIT or are independent.

Similarly, the advanced training also concretely helped two scientists interested in founding. They had already advanced their startup idea at the KIT accelerator upCAT and were now grateful about the expanded knowledge from the seminar on patents and licenses. Thus, nothing stands in the way of a spin-off. We are crossing our fingers for their startup project!

The next “From Invention to Innovation” advanced training session will take place on October 6, 2015. Mark your calendar or register directly at the FTU. You can find the seminar in the program using the FTU shorthand MB431.

Innovation – Curse or blessing!?

The crisis is barely over, and the whole country is already calling for innovations. In times of flourishing information technology, a shift in energy, and the question about our future mobility, we definitely can’t do without them. But are innovations truly the panacea for our problems, and does innovation really make it or break it when it comes to success? Continue reading

3D Cell Culture Vessels Made to Measure

The 300MICRONS GmbH KIT Spinoff Company Develops and Produces Miniaturized 3D Cell Culture Systems.

For nearly twenty years, Professor Dr. Eric Gottwald has conducted research at the KIT to find out how cells can be cultured in three dimensions. Cell culture experiments are important especially in biological and pharmaceutical research and in biotechnology.

Prof. Dr. Eric Gottwald, einer der Gründer von 300MICRONS. Auf den Bildschirmen im Hintergrund sind Aufnahmen von 3D-Zellkulturen zu sehen.

Prof. Dr. Eric Gottwald, one of the founders of 300MICRONS. The screens in the backround show pictures of 3D cell cultures.

Unlike 2D culture vessels, such as the flat Petri dishes, 3D culture systems guarantee a more organotypical growth of cells. As a consequence, results can be transferred more effectively to the human organism. The technology of manufacturing these systems is based on work of the co-founders Dr. Stefan Giselbrecht and Dr. Roman Truckenmüller, two former KIT staff members.

The idea to found a company was hedged by the team well over fifteen years ago. “However, at that time, there was demonstrably no market whatsoever. We were pioneers in our technology,” explains biologist Gottwald. Thus, the team first used a patented manufacturing technique to make a product for research purposes of their own. However, for a couple of years the trend in fundamental research and in industrial use has been in favor of 3D culture systems. In 2014, the three scientists therefore made another attempt at setting up a company. The young company, 300MICRONS, initially employed machines developed in house and a lot of manual work. In this way, 300MICRONS was able to generate its first revenue even before the official establishment of the company. Continue reading