terraplasma medical: “Startup centers are invaluable”
terraplasma medical was founded in March 2016. The reason the company was founded at all is thanks to the gate technology center where the two entrepreneurs Julia Zimmermann and Jens Kirsch met during an event.
Both Julia Zimmermann and Jens Kirsch were already experienced founders and entrepreneurs, and both had their companies located at gate. Julia Zimmerman has a Ph.D. in physics, is a habilitated physician and also the CEO of terraplasma GmbH. The company was founded in 2011 as a spin-off from the Max Planck Institute, and offers technology that renders bacteria, viruses and fungi inactive and harmless. Founded in 2014, dynamify GmbH develops medical devices under the supervision of the techno-mathematician Jens Kirsch.
The two entrepreneurs got along well and realized their two existing business ideas would meld well. Jens Kirsch commented:
“This demonstrates how invaluable a startup center can be, particularly in our case where different skills have been united for a win-win result.”
“The initial concept was to collaborate on developing an interesting device and launching it on the market.”
While looking for the right type of financing, it quickly became apparent that defined structures were necessary. The result was terraplasma medical, founded by terraplasma GmbH and Dynamify GmbH, in which the two founders and CEOs combine their skills.
Wound treatment with cold plasma
The new company is focusing on the development of a medical device for treating chronic and acute wounds using cold atmospheric plasma. The medical device ‘plasma care’ was specially designed to suit the needs of physicians, nursing staff and patients — it is small, easy to use and battery-powered, yet offers a large treatment surface.
The ‘plasma care’ effectively and safely renders bacteria inactive, even multi-resistant bacteria, without any side effects. The long-term plan is to also apply the fascinating and promising cold plasma technology to other medical fields.
The global market for wound treatment has a volume of more than nine billion US dollars. In Germany alone, more than four million patients suffer from chronic wounds, which often do not heal even after months or years. Bacteria are often the cause of such poor healing — and this is where terraplasma medical comes in with their focus on wound care centers, clinics, physicians and care facilities.
Public funding and research funding
The startup has already been able to prove itself in the year following its founding, and this is due to various reasons. For one, the founders have been able to tap into resources from both parent companies. Furthermore, terraplasma medical is also supported by public funding and research funding. As an example, the startup was taken on by the ESA BIC Bavaria incubator in summer 2016. In addition to financial support, the incubator also offers opportunities for promoting the medical device.
In terms of endorsing their business idea, both CEOs have also benefited from their previous startups.
“A major advantage from our previous startups has certainly been the network we had already established. That was particularly true in terms of financing,”
The first major milestone to be reached was the completion of a round of financing last March. Several private investors with experience in the sector came together to provide the company with a mid-range seven-figure sum.
“For us, it was important to get experienced investors on board who were interested in long-term financing, which then ensures effective operative management,”
“That has allowed us to completely focus on development, which has resulted in reaching the first milestone in the development of our medical device.”
There are always obstacles, and challenges too
That being said, the enforcement of the new Medical Device Regulation, a new EU-wide law regulating medical products, has significantly heightened the requirements for authorizing a medical device. This makes it difficult for startups and SMEs in particular to meet the criteria and receive authorization. The short transition period has left quite a few issues unresolved and the designated authorizing authorities are dealing with major capacity problems.
And of course there are other challenges as well. When asked which mistakes they want to avoid repeating at all costs, Kirsch answered:
“Giving too much leeway in drafting contracts within the complex constellation of a company being founded by two companies along with a group of investors and a public institution.”
Nonetheless, starting a company based on two existing companies is positive in itself:
“The workload is naturally extremely heavy for us. However, synergies often arise that we are able to take advantage of, for example in development or marketing.”
With their initial companies, the founders also learned what can be decisive for sustainable and successful company development. Kirsch named the following aspects:
“A defined strategy and the necessary flexibility to quickly react to problems and obstacles.”
And of course it does not help to stick your head in the sand when problems come up — that is something both young entrepreneurs have learned. Jens Kirsch’s advice for other founders as a result:
“Even in situations that look extremely complicated, don’t give up – look for a solution instead!”