60 Seconds with Dr. Horst Domdey, Managing Director, BioM-Munich Biotech Cluster

BF: How does Munich rank in Germany, and also within Europe, as a competitive location for biotech companies?

HD: In the past 10 to 15 years, the Munich Biotech Cluster has been able to reach the undeniable number one position, at least within Germany. In Munich, the first commercial biotech activities started in the early nineties, and due to the strong support of the Bavarian Government––directly or indirectly, e.g., through the local universities––Munich-based start-up companies had excellent conditions in their founding processes. Everybody might think now that this came from huge amounts of money that were poured into the newly established start-ups. But that is not true; it was the favorable conditions that helped most, such as the excellent science that is present here, or an incubator which offered lab and office space in 1995, and which was increased from its original size of 8,000 square feet to now more than 180,000 square feet, or also the conditions providing an academic scientist the ease and incentives to spin off and even manage (part-time) a new company. Therefore, it is probably not astonishing that Munich, with more than 100 biotech companies, is considered one of the top four biotech locations in Europe.

BF: How successfully do Munich’s biotech companies partner with local research institutes?

HD: The vast majority of the Munich-based biotech companies are spin offs from the two local universities, the local Max Planck Institutes and the Munich Helmholtz Center. Therefore, there has been a high number of very tight connections, in the form of scientific cooperations, between the different research groups and their spun-off companies. In addition we have generated a new process in the past few months, since the already existing network of cooperations is being widely extended, which will thus go far beyond its original connections. In this way, a new dimension of crisscross cooperations will be created which will certainly help elevate Munich’s biotech activities.

BF: Has the global economic downturn affected Munich’s biotech cluster?

HD: We cannot, of course, predict the future and definitive consequences of the current financial and economic crisis. However, to date the crisis has had only very small effects on the local biotech industry. Most of the companies still look very optimistic into the future and even plan to hire new staff. People might postpone the purchase of a new car or a new TV screen but they will not abstain from their medical treatments. Therefore I keep my unbreakable optimism about biotechnology in Munich.

Munich’s Biotech Cluster: The Numbers

• More than 100 companies
• More than 2,400 employees
• More than 200 local and international partnerships
• More than 2 billion euro in private investment
• Top biotech location in Germany
• Top 4 in Europe (with Cambridge, Copenhagen, and Zurich)

NJ Nets Nanion

In February, German pharmaceutical company Nanion Technologies, Inc. announced its new headquarters in North Brunswick, NJ. This expansion into the U.S. market will support the increasing demand for Nanion’s products while also allowing North American customers to purchase the company’s equipment with U.S. dollars rather than the euro.

“With the rapidly growing number of American customers, we need to increase our efforts in the North American market, which will strengthen our position as a leading provider of sophisticated and high-quality ion channel screening devices. Additionally, swift and competent technical support is very important to us and has always been our trademark. To expand and support the sales in the U.S., our U.S. office will make it easier for people to visit us and see our platforms in action,” says Dr. Niels Fertig, Nanion Technologies’ CEO.

Rodolfo Haedo, general manager and chief application scientist, recently joined the Nanion team in North Brunswick. Haedo was previously employed at Merck in Rahway, NJ. “I am thrilled to join the Nanion team and to support and promote Nanion’s impressive platforms in the American market,” he says.

Nanion was founded in 2002 as a spin-off of the Center for Nanoscience at the University of Munich in Bavaria.