The RWTH Aachen spin-off receives EXIST Transfer of Research Grant
The RWTH Aachen spin-off BioThrust has made a major step on the path to founding a start-up. With their innovative idea, Patrick Bongartz, Moritz Meyer and Konstantin Kurz were able to convince an expert jury in Berlin to receive the EXIST Transfer of Research grant. Starting in April, the team will be fully funded for 18 months.
"This is milestone on our entrepreneurial journey, giving us the opportunity to further develop our prototypes”, Patrick Bongartz explains. “In collaboration with our partners from industry and research, we want to develop products that can be used in any biotech lab and on a large scale in pharmaceutical production. BioThrust will revolutionize the gassing of bioreactors."
The spin-off develops customized gassing solutions for bioreactors. These include highly porous stirrers that simultaneously introduce gas bubbles into the reactor and lead to a better gas supply than conventional systems. On the other hand, the team is developing fluidically optimized in-situ membrane modules that enable purely diffusive, bubble-free gas introduction while at the same time circulating the culture medium very gently. As a result, bioprocesses can be gassed up to 30 times more efficiently without foaming, and even sensitive biosystems such as cell cultures can be supplied with sufficient oxygen.
The research team has its roots at Prof. Wessling's Chair of Chemical Process Engineering (AVT). "The professorship and the whole of Aachen Process Engineering congratulate the BioThrust team on obtaining the EXIST funds", said Dr. Hanna Wolff, Managing Director at AVT. "It demonstrates that we are doing relevant research at AVT and bringing technologies from proof-of-principle to a high technological readiness level." "At the Center for Next Generation Processes and Products (NGP²), we are very well equipped to meet all of the challenges in our product development – including access to a 3D printing lab for prototyping, biotech S1 labs for sample fermentations, an analytics department for characterizing our built-in components before and after use, in-house IT, and a modern mechanical workshop for complex manufacturing jobs," Patrick Bongartz continues.
The researchers rapidly advanced the development of their technology. In early 2020, the first prototype was patented. The early protection of the technology is now paying off and illustrates how much a solid Intellectual Property (IP) concept can help attract further funding. In 2021, as part of the RWTH Innovation Sprint, the team received nearly €90,000 in funding to further develop their prototypes and set up test facilities, which helped increase market readiness.
"Without the many supporters and programs of the university like the RWTH Innovation Sprint and the RWTH Ideation Program, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. Turning an idea into a product is a long way. Turning a product into a start-up is at least as far. But now we have the best starting conditions," says Bongartz. "Winning the RWTH Innovation Award last year gave us a strong media presence, which resulted in numerous industry collaborations. Now we can perfectly adapt our products to the needs of the market."
The team is currently settling in at NGP² in Aachen. "At the moment, we are working a lot on our website and setting up initial sales activities," says Konstantin Kurz, business economist at BioThrust. "There is still a lot to do, even before the EXIST program starts!" The launch of their start-up, however, seems to be within easy reach!