NMI TT GmbH – creating value from research
NMI TT GmbH is a subsidiary of the NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute in Reutlingen with which it works closely. Developments by the renowned NMI are commercialised by NMI TT GmbH and the profit flows back into the NMI’s research activities – thus leading to a value creation cycle that benefits research and development as well as the economy.
In 2002, the NMI established a “GmbH” (limited liability company) in order to efficiently place on the market methods and products developed by the NMI. The profit generated is reinvested into the NMI for research and development. Prof. Dr. Hugo Hämmerle is director of the NMI as well as managing director of NMI TT GmbH – a setup that “was anticipated when NMI TT GmbH was established, but not carved in stone”, as Hämmerle put it. He explains why NMI TT GmbH was founded: “The NMI is a non-profit foundation tasked with turning basic research results into commercial methods and products.” The commercialisation of research results is therefore not part of the NMI foundation’s tasks. “When NMI TT GmbH was founded, we clearly saw the huge potential of some products that the market was not yet asking for at that time. Instead of putting such projects on ice, we decided to commercialise the products ourselves. And this can only be done by a company that is allowed to generate profit and where conditions such as product liability are clearly regulated.”
The NMI foundation has been sole shareholder of NMI TT GmbH since its establishment. The foundation raised the necessary start-up capital, an investment that continues to pay off. Nevertheless, the company did not develop linearly: The peptide synthesis division was sold to Intavis AG in August 2009 and the consulting services that were originally planned, and for which the company had great expectations, have been abandoned. “There are already a lot of companies on the market that offer services in the field of technology consulting. Since this is not our central field of business, we abandoned it in favour of other activities,” said Hämmerle.
Focus on central fields of competence
NMI TT GmbH currently focuses on three business areas: 1) pharmaceutical services which include safety pharmacology, ion channel services and protein profiling, 2) microdevices and 3) test laboratory.
NMI TT GmbH offers its clients from the pharmaceutical industry different preclinical test models and new custom-made models if so requested. There are numerous other companies on the market who offer electrophysiological pharmaceutical services. “In this area, we still need to find a way to position ourselves on the international market. Overall, we would like improve our position in all the areas we focus on,” said Hämmerle summarizing the company’s medium-term development goal.
In-vitro safety pharmacology, which the company has taken over from Konstanz-based Nycomed is mainly focused on electrophysiological investigations that aim to exclude unwanted side effects of substance candidates. In addition, the NMI has developed and transferred to NMI TT GmbH innovative methods that make it possible to assess the effects substances can have on intracellular signal transfer: electrophysiological ion channel screening involving cell and tissue cultures, which does away with the need to use experimental animals. NMI TT GmbH is a specialist in protein profiling, which involves the use of miniaturised and multiplexed analytical methods to analyse protein expression in very small amounts of sample. These methods can be used to simultaneously analyse several proteins (so-called biomarkers) in the biopsy material of patients.
The microdevices business area uses microtechnical methods to produce sensors and probes for use in biotechnology and medical technology. Examples include microelectrode arrays (MEAs) and tips for application in optical near-field and atomic force microscopy. “We also produce components for application in medical technology that requires products manufactured according to specific quality standards, which is exactly what NMI TT GmbH is able to offer,” said Hämmerle. As far as the miniaturised electrodes of the MEAs are concerned, NMI TT GmbH works closely with Reutlingen-based and NMI spin-off Multi Channel Systems MCS GmbH.
NMI TT GmbH’s third business area is the quality control of novel medicinal products. “In September 2010, we were granted the authorisation to produce cell-based advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) as well to test biomaterials,” said Hämmerle with justifiable pride, as complex and time-consuming procedures are required before such manufacturing permits are granted. ATMPs are products for use in novel therapies, for example drugs developed in the field of regenerative medicine. ATMPs can, for example, involve living cells that are embedded in biological matrices along with growth factors. They are then transplanted into the body to replace and regenerate defective tissue. “Such products need to undergo numerous tests according to GMP standards before manufacturing authorisation is granted. And this is something we now have,” said Hämmerle.
Hämmerle regards the quality control services offered by the company as more than just giving access to a new market: “Another important aspect of such services is that very early on in the development processes they provide us with information on the regulatory and qualitative requirements drug developers need to take into account. In addition, we find it very important to have the know-how about the entire value creation chain in-house. The know-how of a research institute such as the NMI gives us the opportunity to identify potential regulatory hurdles very early on and take them into account when we develop a product.” Hämmerle believes that this has a very positive effect on customer loyalty as the manufacturers of drugs and medicinal products attach great importance to competence, experience and stable business relations.
NMI TT GmbH
Prof. Dr. Hugo Hämmerle
Tel.: +49 ( )07121 51530-0