Dr. Kai Uwe Bindseil: Berlin-Brandenburg is a leading location of the European biotech industry

Biotechnology is a technology for the 21st century. Fundamental molecular genetic technologies were created in the last de­c­ades of the 20th century; significant com­­mercialization did not begin in Ger­­many until the turn of the millennium.

This means, we are dealing with a really young industry. Nevertheless there are intensive efforts to further it everywhere in the world. The reason is that biotech­­nology is the basis for innovations in the fields of health and nourishment, which are of great importance for the well-be­­ing, and that the high potential it also has in the fields of chemistry and energy is re­­­cognized by more and more people. That is why life sciences have been one of the main focuses of the innovation policy in Berlin-Brandenburg for more than ten years. The conditions for building up a productive biotech cluster with interna­tional influence were better here than in many other re­­gions of Germany. The high number of research facilities concen­­trated in our area leads to an almost in­­exhaustible pool of resources from which many young, in­­novative companies have emerged. Today more than 190 biotech companies work in this re­­gion. Many of them are spin-offs of the nine universities and 15 research facilities of the Max Planck and Fraun­hofer Societies as well as the Helmholtz and Leibniz Associations, where approximate­ly 350 work groups are engaged in re­­search regarding life sciences. Thanks to the great commitment of the states’ go­­vern­­ments, six bio­­technology parks were created, providing ideal starting conditions to young companies in particular.
Efficient networks. Nowadays research and development in high technology segments are furthered by a worldwide flow of know-how and by international co-operation. A cluster can never be self-sufficient. It is rather a point marking a hub on the international road­­map. When you look closer, you will find out that this point is a dense network it­­­self. The biotech region of Berlin-Bran­den­­burg is a very good example of such a place.

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The concentration of expertise in core areas of biological basic research, biotechnology and biomedicine is a spe­­cial characteristic of the region. In these areas great and efficient potentials have come up, forming the basis of the internationally recognized status of life sciences in Berlin-Brandenburg.
Owing to these potentials, many stimuli from outside can be integrated.

The close relationship of strong partners from science and industry within the net­­works ensures an efficient transfer of tech­­­nology and thus the fast implementation of results in basic research into wide­­spread use.

Networks in the region dedicate them­­selves among others to the development of medicine, the combination of micro­sys­­tems technology and biotechnology, bioin­­formatics, functional genomics, gly­­cobio­technology, molecular diagnostics, nutrition and plant genome research, structural biology, regenerative medicine, RNA tech­­­nologies as well as industrial biotechnol­­ogy.

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The close interlocking of basic research with clinical is another great strength of the region. The Charité, being one of the biggest university hospitals in Europe with more than 2,000 scientists, pro­­vi­des the research facilities as a com­­petent partner for clinical research covering all indication areas. Clinicians and basic re­­search scientists work together un­­der one roof in special centres like the Ex­peri­mental and Clinical Research Cen­­­ter (ECRC), the Berlin Brandenburg Cen­­ter for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT) or the NEU­ROCURE excellence cluster.

On a growth curve. About ten new biotech companies are founded in Berlin-Brandenburg every year. Due to this, there are now almost 200 companies and the industry is well represented. The companies are young and innovative, but often they are also still very small. Many of them focus on research and development, their business concepts primarily aim at co-operation with big pharmaceutical and chemical enterprises. They only plan to introduce their own products in the medium term. Com­­panies like this do not represent fast growth but sustainable growth with an annual increase in jobs of about five per cent over the past ten years. And they attract the attention of international life science corporations and bring them into the region. This way companies like Sa­­­nofi- Aventis, Pfizer, Shire, DSM, STRATEC and Thermo Fisher Scientific have come to the region in recent years. The internationally leading contract research or­­ga­­nization Parexel also has a branch in Berlin, employing 1,500 people.

Together with the companies in medical technology, the biotech companies are the technological basis of and thus a driving force behind the altogether well positioned health industry in Berlin and Bran­­den­burg.

 

1-BindseilThe author studied chemistry and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Ciba-Geigy AG in Basle. In 1994 he joined AnalytiCon AG in Berlin and in 2000 he founded Analyti­­Con Discovery GmbH in Potsdam. Dr. Bind­­seil has headed the “Aktionszentrum BioTOP Berlin-Bran­den­­burg” since 2001. He is spokesman of the Arbeitskreis Deutscher Biore­gio­nen.