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Growing along with its responsibilities

BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH has been active in promoting biotechnology and life sciences in Baden-Württemberg for five years now. The plan by the Baden-Württemberg government to establish an innovation agency for biotechnology and the life sciences in 2003 has been a success story for the region.

Established pharmaceutical companies, experienced biotechnology experts, imaginative young entrepreneurs – Baden-Württemberg has become a diverse biotechnology location. Did an economic region in which biotechnology was already such a force, really need a state company that focused on the life sciences? This might, at least at the beginning, have been a legitimate question. In the meantime, five years after the foundation of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg, such reservations have become unnecessary. It has become clear that BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg, which received support from state politicians and is state financed, is of great benefit for the state’s biotechnology sector and the regional support structures.

When BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH began work on the 15th January 2003, its major activities included public relations work, location marketing and economic development of the biotechnology and life sciences sectors in Baden-Württemberg. These core activities continue, though the catalogue of measures used to deal with these tasks has grown considerably.

Prominence through contacts: SYNPRO

Two men in coversation at a trade fair booth
BIOPRO’s business development programme, SYNPRO, supports partnerships between companies. © BIOPRO/Bächtle
In 2004, BIOPRO started the business development project SYNPRO which focuses on initiating partnerships between companies and assisting them as long as it is necessary for the joint projects of the partners to run autonomously. This type of business development is clearly different from previous support measures. SYNPRO deliberately does not rely on using money to support the development of such partnerships, but creates synergies by bringing suitable partners into contact with each other.

Companies are often faced with the challenge of having to deal with issues that are not part of their core business. In such situations, a partner that is already active in the new field might be of great value. For a small company that has, for example, developed a marketable product, market introduction often represents a great hurdle. An established medium-sized company that is active in this particular sector and is looking for new products, might turn out to be an important partner by bringing marketing experience and effective sales structures into the partnership.

The following three practical examples show that the SYNPRO partnering programme is of great help where small and medium-sized biotechnology companies are looking for new ideas.

1. Dosing GmbH, Heidelberg
In 2006, the SYNPRO team accompanied the start-up company of the University Hospital of Heidelberg on its road to independence. Dosing GmbH developed the IT-based drug information system AiDKlinik that gives doctors access to information as to which drugs can be combined and how the drugs might interact negatively. The system creates additional support for doctors when prescribing drugs.
A new biological rust removal agent is close to market introduction. (Photo: Kunz)
Biological rust removal
About ten years ago, a method for the biological rust removal of metals was developed at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences by researchers under Prof. Dr. Peter Kunz. The method is based on a biological substance obtained from bacteria. The biological function of the bacterial siderophores (from Greek “iron carrier”) is to bind the iron that is contained in iron oxides. However, the siderophores strongly attract trivalent iron and are hence also able to withdraw iron from metal oxides, a process that is similar to rust removal. From work safety aspects, this bio-based method is far superior to previously used methods because it does not involve any aggressive chemicals.

BIOPRO involved an interdisciplinary team of experts and supported the dialogue between the developer of the process, potential producers of the substance as well as partners from the field of application, and a business concept was developed. In the meantime (as of July 2008), the new bio-based rust remover is close to market launch through a medium-sized company based in Baden-Württemberg which operates internationally.
SYNPRO supported Novalung in launching the iLA Membrane Ventilator®. (Photo: Novalung)
3. Novalung/Helios Clinics
The company Novalung, based in Hechingen, has developed and clinically tested a device that is an alternative to conventional mechanical ventilation. The system has the advantage in that it does not strain the lung mechanically as is often observed with conventional ventilators. The marketing of the Novalung device has so far been quite problematic.

The Novalung example shows that innovative medical products often have to overcome large obstacles on their way to market introduction. BIOPRO’s SYNPRO team supported Novalung by bringing the company into contact with the Helios Clinics, which resulted in the introduction of the lung ventilator into the Clinics for testing purposes.

Exhibitions and events

Minister of Economic Affairs, Ernst Pfister (centre) visited the joint Baden-Württemberg booth of BIOPRO at BIOTECHNICA 2007.
Minister of Economic Affairs, Ernst Pfister (centre) visited the joint Baden-Württemberg booth of BIOPRO at BIOTECHNICA 2007. © BIOPRO/Bächtle
In the first year following its inception, BIOPRO’s major marketing measures included the participation in tradeshows and the organisation of events. Together with the four BioRegions of that time, BIOPRO presented its services at the main tradeshow of the industry, namely BIO in the USA. The joint Baden-Württemberg booth presented at BIOTECHNICA for the first time in 2003, received a great response and has been successfully repeated ever since. In 2003, twenty exhibitors from the fields of science and industry presented their products and services at the joint booth. Never before had it been possible to present the biotechnology sector of Germany’s southwest so comprehensively at Europe’s leading biotechnology tradeshow. The joint Baden-Württemberg booth found general approval, and the interest of companies, networks and research institutions in exhibiting at BIOTECHNICA rose. At BIOTECHNICA 2007, as many as 34 co-exhibitors used the opportunity to present their services and products on 360 of the 620-squaremeters of the booth area.

In 2004 and 2006, BIOPRO organised the “Baden-Württemberg Biotechnology Forum”, regional industry events at which more than 200 entrepreneurs, scientists and politicians exchanged their views and information on biotechnology. The major issues focused on the political conditions, economic development and synergy potentials arising from cooperating with other industrial sectors.

When the New Convention Centre was opened in Stuttgart in Autumn 2007, BIOPRO also presented its activities to the public on three booths, including the opportunities provided by biotechnology, related fields of sciences and by special applications such as that of biopolymers.

bio-pro.de – updated at weekly intervals

Since the 1st March 2004, www.bio-pro.de has been providing news from the Baden-Württemberg biotechnology sector, updated at weekly intervals.
Since the 1st March 2004, www.bio-pro.de has been providing news from the Baden-Württemberg biotechnology sector, updated at weekly intervals.
The public face of BIOPRO’s public relations work is the www.bio-pro.de Internet portal that was launched in Spring 2003, providing basic information on BIOPRO and biotechnology. The html-based Internet platform was further developed in 2003 to become a comprehensive information platform. On the 1st March 2004, the bilingual Internet platform was launched in a completely revamped version.

Every week, the journalists of the state’s five BioRegions and BIOPRO’s editorial office in Stuttgart produce new expert articles on biotechnology and the life sciences and publish them using a modern content management system. The texts undergo quality control, are translated and subsequently published. Over the last five years, the editorial team has published more than 5,000 articles and has presented 60 principal topics in fields such as cancer, glycobiotechnology, bioenergy and infectious diseases.

Searching, finding and understanding

Information is of no use unless there is a suitable search function for the huge amount of information available in a database. If this is not the case, then looking for information can become problematic. BIOPRO is therefore the first information platform provider to have integrated the Knowledgeminer of the software specialist USU into its Internet site. This effective search tool sets new standards in Internet searches. The editorial office has set up semantic networks from biological and biotechnological keywords that occur in the articles stored at www.bio-pro.de. By using the “Advanced Search” option, the hits of a search on “red biotechnology”, “cancer” or “immunology” can be presented as an interactive topic map, which shows whether the search word is also included in articles dealing with other, related aspects. Complex topics such as “cancer” will be presented in a differentiated way and enable the user rapid access to the topics and articles that are best related to the search term given. In addition, the users can actively shape the system by rating texts that provided the best answer to their questions as ‘helpful’. This evaluation will then also be included in future search results.

In addition to improving the search option, the Knowledgeminer also comes with a keyword system that highlights expert terms and links them with a glossary, thereby providing the reader with rapid access to clear definitions and explanations of terms which may not be known by the user.

Printed publications

Front page of the BIOPRO magazine, edition 1/2008 © BIOPRO

At the end of 2005, BIOPRO established a new information medium – the BIOPRO Magazin, a print version of the information provided on the Internet portal, but written for readers that are interested in biotechnology but who are not experts. This popular science magazine, of which ten issues have been published, is available free of charge, and is sent to more than 3,000 subscribers.

The BIOPRO series of topic-specific publications has been increased to six. Apart from the “Interdisziplinäre Arbeitsfelder” (“Interdisciplinary fields of application”) (2004) and “Biotech & Schule” (“Biotech & School”) (2005), the English “MEA-Meeting 2006” conference issue and the booklet on “Biotechnology and Health” were added to the series. In 2007, the fifth edition was published on “Regenerative Medizin in Tübingen – neue Therapien im Blickfeld” (“Regenerative Medicine in Tübingen – New Therapies”), and the “MEA-Meeting 2008” followed in 2008.

The Biotech Guide is regularly updated in two-year intervals and the third edition is now available. The comprehensive collection of company profiles has become a very popular source of information at tradeshows and congresses since they present a current picture of the biotech-specific company landscape in Baden-Württemberg.

On site biotechnology

The “Biotech Research in Baden-Württemberg” exhibition illustrates many examples where biotechnology can be applied. (Photo: BIOPRO/Bächtle)
The “Biotech Research in Baden-Württemberg” exhibition illustrates many examples where biotechnology can be applied. (Photo: BIOPRO/Bächtle)
In 2004, BIOPRO developed the “Biotechnology in the Service of Human Health” exhibition. Initially, the exhibition used ten examples to show how biotechnological research, new therapies and diagnostic methods have advanced medical progress. In 2008, the exhibition was revised and complemented. Under the new title, “Biotech Research in Baden-Württemberg”, the exhibition now not only focuses on the topic of health, but also highlights the many other possibilities where biotechnology can be applied. The topics include new anti-cancer therapies, future methods of energy production and an innovative thermoplastic material based on wood.

Successful competitions

© BIOPRO/Bächtle
In 2007 and 2008, BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg participated in three competitions: BioIndustrie 2021, Top Cluster Contest (both organised by the BMBF) and Land of Ideas. BIOPRO was successful with all three proposals.

With the “Biopolymers/Biomaterials” cluster concept, BIOPRO and its project partners have reached the funding phase. The cluster integrates 57 large and medium-sized companies, 34 research institutions and three financial partners. It is a particularly novel concept in that it completely covers the bioplastics value creation chain - from the production of the basic substance, through to production processes and up to the final product. The goals of the cluster are to create an alternative to petrol-based plastics using biotechnological methods and develop plastics with new properties. The BMBF will fund projects with a total of 10 millions in funding for five years. The first projects are already in the funding phase.

In the Top Cluster Contest, BIOPRO and its partners submitted a proposal dealing with the “Medical Technology and Health Tuttlingen/Neckar-Alb – MedCare TechArea” and came into the second round. The BMBF selected twelve proposals to further develop detailed cluster strategies until June 2008, as well as three lead projects. The decision on whether BIOPRO and the “Medical Technology and Health Tuttlingen/Neckar-Alb – MedCare TechArea” will reach the funding phase will be made at the end of September. A positive decision will provide the Top Cluster with up to 40 million euros in governmental funding. The cluster will also have 66 million euros of its own resources available. It combines 70 companies, 15 technology associations, networks and competence centres, 45 partners from universities and universities of applied sciences, research institutions and incubators, 11 health networks, insurance companies and clinical users, 22 regional partners and structures as well as nine financing partners.

BIOPRO has already been successful in the German “Land of Ideas” competition with its contribution entitled “Biotechnology Knowledge Course” (Wissensparcours Biotechnologie), which was produced for the “Hands-on Biotechnology” activity day on the 26th June 2008. BIOPRO impressed the jury and became a “2008 Landmark in the Land of Ideas”.

New trends

Over the last five years there have been two noticeable trends which are likely to become more important in the future: Biotechnology will continue to diversify by, at least partially, interacting with established fields of industry. Examples such as bioenergy and bioplastics clearly show this trend. Biotechnology has a huge development potential in these interdisciplinary fields of application. Secondly, activities such as cluster development, cluster organisation and cluster management will become a more important part of BIOPRO’s work because existing strengths have to be used in an optimal way – and as is known, such strengths are particularly strong if they point into the same direction.

chb – 9th July 2008
© BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH
Website address: https://www.bio-pro.de/en/information/press-release/growing-along-with-its-responsibilities