The Irubis founding team Lorenz Sykora, Anja Müller and Alexander Geißler
© Irubis / Astrid Eckert - TUM

Irubis: “Corona has shown how important innovation is in the field of bioprocess engineering”

Irubis is a Munich-based biotech startup that provides an innovative measuring system for automated monitoring and regulation of bioreactors. The system is based on infrared spectroscopy, which is an analysis method that works with infrared radiation. Munich Startup spoke with Irubis back in 2016, and quite a lot has happened for the startup since then. For example, there is a new focus on bioreactors, which are used in the biopharmaceutical industry for producing biopharmaceutical medication. That meant it was high time for an update interview with Anja Müller, founder and COO of Irubis.

Munich Startup: Anja, our last interview was a good four years ago. What were your three biggest milestone since then?

Anja Müller, Irubis: Quite a lot has happened in the last four years! A major milestone was switching to a new field of application: the biopharmaceutical industry. Within a very short period of time, we received extremely positive feedback on our idea, built a prototype within six weeks and tested it with one of our biopharmaceutical customers. A follow-up project and further customer projects will start in just a few weeks.

We are very pleased about the support we’ve received from business angels since the beginning of the year. Another successful aspect is that Irubis will receive 1.3 million euros from the EU within the framework of the EIC Accelerator. The aim of the funded project is to get our measuring system for monitoring glucose for bioreactors ready for market launch.

Munich Startup: Your business model has undergone changes. What caused that and what are you currently focusing on?

Anja Müller, Irubis: That’s right, we were concentrating on the subject of blood analysis four years ago. The customer problem that we’re focusing on now was communicated to us by the market. An expert in the field asked us “Why don’t you use your technology to monitor bioreactors?” Biopharmaceuticals are made from genetically modified cells in what are known as bioreactors.

A major challenge in the process is ensuring optimal nutrient concentration for the cells. And that’s why in most pharmaceutical companies, samples are still taken and analyzed by hand every day. We solve that problem! Irubis makes it possible to continuously monitor and regulate the nutrient concentration in bioreactors with an infrared spectroscopy system combined with a single use flow cell.

Munich Startup: And what does becoming part of the EIT Accelerator and financing from the Horizon 2020 program mean to you?

Anja Müller, Irubis: The Horizon 2020 program came at just the right time and is helping us take Irubis to the next level! What’s great about the program is its focus on customer-oriented development. We don’t want to force our technology on the market, but instead want to solve our customers’ problem.

Does Irubis have to deal with challenging topics?

Munich Startup: The last time we spoke, production was a major challenge. What topics are tricky right now?

Anja Müller, Irubis: A tricky topic at the moment is recruiting. We want to grow, which means we’re also looking for new team members with a background in biotechnology and a passion for sales as well as software developers and engineers to complement the development of our team.

Munich Startup: Are you still working with the original founding team? How has the team changed as a whole?

Anja Müller, Irubis: Of course! Alex, Lorenz and I have been working together for four years now. Our team now includes twelve people. By the end of the year, we would like to fill four additional positions. Also, we aren’t located in the TUM Incubator anymore, but now have an office in the center of Munich.

“Corona has shown how important innovation is in the field of bioprocess engineering” 

Munich Startup: Would you say that your business model, and your company as a result, have benefitted from the corona crisis?

Anja Müller, Irubis: With glucose regulation and continuous monitoring of bioreactors, biopharmaceuticals can be developed faster and more affordably, which means they’re more rapidly available for patients. We aren’t on the market yet, but particularly the corona crisis has proven how relevant and important innovation is in the field of bioprocess engineering! 

Munich Startup: In recent years, you’ve gone through several accelerators and received various awards. How important was that for your development?

Anja Müller, Irubis: In the beginning in particular, the accelerators helped us with their workshops and networks. Financial support from the accelerators gave us time to find the right market for our idea and to also implement it technically.

Accelerators give you time to find the right market

Munich Startup: Where will you be when we talk again in five years?

Anja Müller, Irubis: Successful on the market. Our mission is to make Irubis technology the gold standard for glucose monitoring and the regulation of bioreactors!