© mk2 Biotechnologies

Mk2 Biotechnologies: Peptides are Top Candidates for Tackling Major Societal Challenges

Mk2 Biotechnologies develops, produces and investigates peptides of the highest purity and quality standards using synthesis technology. The founders explained more about what exactly is behind the technology and why they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel to do it in our Seven Questions.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Conventional chemical materials are increasingly reaching their limits, in particular in the cosmetic, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. That is reflected, for example, by the increasing spread of antibiotic resistance and by the alarming dying off of insects. To replace these chemical materials that have a collateral effect and usher in a new bio-based age, entirely new material classes are urgently needed. Peptides, which are small proteins, are one of the top candidates under consideration for tackling many major societal challenges.

We, Konstantinos (30, physicist/chemist), Sebastian (33, business economist), Marco (30, chemist) and Christoph (34, biotechnologist), have developed a method that can be used to produce any high purity peptides using fermentation. That means, similar to beer and wine production in which yeast produces alcohol, we also let microorganisms that have been precisely adapted produce our target peptides, which we then purify and isolate in a simple step.

Although the biosynthetic pathway itself is already established, there have unfortunately been major problems purifying the peptides until now. Impure peptides, which are often contaminated with toxic chemicals, cannot simply be introduced into a biological environment, but instead require complex purification. Our process produces peptides that are already so pure that end users can make direct use of them.

Economies of scale as the key to success

2. But that’s already been done!

Of course, there’s nothing that hasn’t already been done. But at what price? We have exclusively focused on eliminating the existing bottlenecks in the value-added chain. We’ve simply amended the current industry standard by adding innovations to its critical points, which in turn ensures continuous scalability along the chain of production. That means we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we’re predominantly relying on conventional process steps: The potential savings in production costs amounts to several orders of magnitude. All in all, thanks to economies of scale we can produce peptides for the first time at such a low cost that they will actually become relevant for interesting mass-market applications.

3. What was your biggest challenge so far?

What was and continues to be the biggest challenge is prioritizing major issues that regularly and unexpectedly come out of nowhere that we aren’t trained or prepared to resolve. That might involve fundamentally conflicting opinions in the team or technical difficulties. And even if you would rather resolve everything immediately, you quite often have to prioritize and also leave some problems for later on. Constantly putting out fires makes you unhappy and unproductive.

Business — isn’t going anywhere yet

4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?

Business? It’s not going anywhere yet, but that’s not even on our agenda right now. We’re still in the development stage, which is when we want to qualify our platform technology for scaling. It’s not uncommon for spin-offs that are technologically complex to have to wait a few years to see any revenue. We have, however, already raised more than one million euros, and clear signals have been sent indicating that the next round of financing should also go smoothly. At the same time, many of our current talks with potential customers and cooperation partners are very promising. All of that combined with our technological advancements lets us look to the near and distant future with confidence.

5. What does Munich mean to you?

Three of our four founders grew up in the Munich metropolitan area, and all four of us completed our undergraduate and post-graduate studies here. Munich and its surroundings, from Straubing to Schwangau and from Ingolstadt to Fischbachau, are our home. At the same time, Mk2 Biotechnologies wouldn’t even exist if Munich wasn’t the kind of academic and high-tech hub that it is: After all, we came into existence at the university. A flourishing high-tech landscape, top universities and willing investors provide ideal opportunities for finding good partners and colleagues — both are fundamental for successful development.

6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?

To become a unicorn, you have to have insane growth aspirations, ideally in B2C, which means you also have to spend a whole lot of money and put the pedal to the metal. If something goes wrong, then you really can call it an epic fail. That strategy, however, isn’t compatible with us as individuals. We don’t just want market value, but also want to generate good content, and that takes time and a great deal of diligence. Our industry and customer base work the same way we do, and we also expect the same from our financial backers. Anything other than that would just cause disappointment and conflict. With a lot of patience and perseverance, we might also become a unicorn after a few years, but that would probably happen quietly behind the scenes. That also means hardly anyone would notice a potential fail except for industry experts.

7. Isar or English Garden? The Isar, no question: Ride your bike up the river, and then have some Obatzda (Bavarian cheese spread) on the way back at the Waldwirtschaft Restaurant. Or another alternative would be to get on the S7 train in the morning with a rubber dinghy – the rest is self-explanatory

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