“There is not that much competition, but there are also not many investors in this space.”
DNA synthesizers are machines used to custom-build DNA molecules to contain a particular sequence of nucleotides. Today, most scientists rely on ordering these DNA molecules from online services because they do not have access to these DNA synthesizers. However, a company in Austria is set to change this tradition because it has created what it describes as a Nespresso machine for DNA. Essentially, it has developed a personal DNA synthesizer fuelled by a unique single-cartridge system. The company was launched in 2014 and founded by CEO Alexander Murer, Martin Jost and Bernhard Tittelbach. Prior to starting the company in 2014, the team developed lab devices and founded the community ‘biohackerspace’ ‘Open Biolab Graz Austria’ in 2013.
Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye, caught up with Alexander Murer, CEO of Kilobaser.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind Kilobaser?
AM: It’s a long story, but I will keep I brief. I was studying molecular biology in Graz in Austria. I was rather bored with the way that the subject was taught at the university. The teaching was quiet theory heavy and not creative. So, after a while, I started tinkering with lab devices. I then joined up with two friends of mine – Martin Jost and Bernhard Tittelbach – and we started to develop lab devices. Subsequently, we needed to find a space in order to develop these lab devices and so we founded an open community lab. We invited all our friends and colleagues to build this lab together in 2013. Working in this lab, we really got into DNA synthesis. DNA is the basic building brick for life science projects, so we were wondering how DNA was built.
At some point we decided to build our own DNA synthesizer and soon joined the start-up programme “Rebel.bio” when we needed some basic financing. We launched Kilobaser – a personal DNA synthesizer fuelled by a unique single-cartridge system. All the operator has to do to operate this system is to insert a cartridge and a µfluidic chip to help synthesize the DNA. This system makes the DNA-producing a lot easier and faster. Instead of having to wait for an order, scientists in the lab can have their DNA straight away. Essentially, you can work a lot faster and do a multiple amount of experiments.
LG: What were you doing before you started your role at Kilobaser?
AM: I was studying molecular biology in Graz in Austria.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing the company?
AM: We had to overcome a lot of technical challenges; microfluidics is a quite young industrial field. We are also a young team – we had a lot to learn.
Elsewhere, at the beginning, it was quite tough to get funding. There is not that much competition, but there are also not many investors in this space (hardware in lab devices).
LG: What’s coming up next for your company?
AM: In March 2020, we plan to launch our product to the market. Currently, we’re scaling up for series production.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable product?
AM: I really enjoy any meat substitutes or lab-grown meat. I suppose something like the Impossible Burger.
Alexander Murer, CEO of Kilobaser, is a confirmed speaker at SynBio Markets (Berlin, 18-19 November 2019).