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BioLux GmbH - from the hen to the egg and then to the clients

It began as a service laboratory for DNA sequencing and within a few years became a worldwide network of highly specialised biotech companies for molecular biology products. Investments in platform technologies play a key role in this development. Since then, the team at Stuttgart-based BioLux GmbH has found that the production of antibodies is its highest revenue business activity.

Klaus Höhnel strode into the field of platform technologies, quickly crossing national borders. Together with partner laboratories in Paris, San Francisco and Bratislava, the scientist, who has a PhD in chemistry, has developed a broad range of molecular biology products and services.
Dr. Klaus Höhnel, CEO of BioLux GmbH © private
Höhnel and his team offer clients DNA sequencing, antibodies, gene and peptide syntheses and the product and service portfolio is continuously expanding.

The establishment of BioLux GmbH in his hometown, Stuttgart, in the south of Germany in 2000, was Höhnel’s initial response to hospital requirements for DNA sequencing, which he became aware of whilst working at the Charité hospital in Berlin. A business contact with a French company soon opened up additional business opportunities. The cooperation with Genosphere Biotechnologies in Paris not only provided mutual support in times of capacity bottlenecks, but also gave him access to DNA synthesis, antibody production and peptide synthesis.

Immune serum from egg yolk

Selectivity of a polyclonal antibody against a synthetic peptide and its phosphorylated derivative © BioLux
The two companies complement each other in both their technical equipment and in their consulting services. They offer synthetic genes as well as polyclonal rabbit, guinea pig and chicken antibodies. To be more precise, the antibodies are produced in chickens’ eggs, because the biotechnologists produce immune serum from egg yolk rather than from blood. And, in addition to this, for quite some time, Höhnel has also been offering monoclonal antibodies from rabbit cell cultures, a novelty that was discovered by a partner company, Epitomics in San Francisco, CA, USA, and which complements the well-proven production of antibodies in mouse cell cultures. “Cell cultures are robust and do not need constant feeding in the same way that chickens do,” said Höhnel with a smile, adding that antibodies produced in rabbit cell cultures have numerous molecular biological advantages. For example, they recognise more epitopes than polyclonal antibodies and are able to recognise other epitopes than mouse antibodies recognise. He also works with the Slovakian company Vladislav Stanko Dolfinin in the detection of Q-fever and chlamydia antibodies.

Strength through cooperation

“Working in cooperation is vital,” emphasises Höhnel. The rapid technological development in the biotech sector and the associated price pressure among biotech providers do not give him much time to sit back and relax. “15 years ago, synthetic genes cost 21 euros per base pair; today the prices have gone down to 1 euro per base pair,” said the Stuttgart scientist citing an example to illustrate the decline in prices. Those who want to stay at the forefront of state-of-the-art technological developments require huge amounts of money at the same time as having to face constantly declining selling prices – or they need to cleave alternatives, like for example Klaus Höhnel has done. The cooperation with other biotechnology laboratories, in particular in the field of platform technologies, enables him to react rapidly and comprehensively to new requirements in order to compete with those who discount prices. In the meantime, antibody production has become Höhnel and his team’s highest revenue activity. “The field of gene synthesis is also increasingly gaining in importance,” added Höhnel.

In his striving for teamwork, Höhnel realised that his willingness to cooperate opens doors, in particular outside Germany. “In Germany, people are afraid that others will deprive them of something vital,” said Höhnel regretting what he has found in Germany. The company’s client base is distributed across the globe, including big pharmaceutical companies, plant physiologists or plant breeders who draw on antibodies, for example, to establish new ELISA tests that are used to identify specific proteins in genetically modified plants.

Höhnel does not use the services of expensive consulting agencies or strategic planners, a question he is often asked by business economists. He prefers to use the personal and direct contact with potential partners.

Innovation is important

“Basic technologies which serve as the basis for the creation of other technologies,” as Höhnel defines the area of platform technology, he believes are key factors in his business and will increase in importance. But he also holds great store by the advances in technological developments: “Previously, DNA sequencing used to be a basic technology; nowadays, DNA sequencing is a run-of-the-mill technology.” Nevertheless, DNA sequencing still remains for him the most important field of work in his Stuttgart-based company, which he uses in order to continue developing innovative products and services.

km – 22nd April 2008
© BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

Further information:
Dr. Klaus Höhnel
BioLux GmbH
Brommerstraße 19
70563 Stuttgart
Tel.: +49 (0)711 - 901818 5
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/biolux-gmbh-from-the-hen-to-the-egg-and-then-to-the-clients