Can we bring biotechnology and information technology together?
Evoxx Technologies is an industrial biotech company focused on the development and production of industrial enzymes and new carbohydrates through biocatalysis. The company emerged in mid-2016 from a merger between the enzyme specialist Evocatal and the carbohydrate specialist Aevotis, which Evocatal had already bought in early 2015. The two original locations, Monheim and Potsdam, with a total of around 40 employees, will be retained. CHEManager asked Evoxx managing directors Dr. Thorsten Eggert (CEO) and Martina Döring (CSO) on the background to the merger, the renaming and the goals that the company is currently pursuing. The questions asked by Dr. Birgit Megges.
CHEManager: Dr. Eggert, why did you decide to merge the two biotech companies Evocatal and Aevotis under the new name Evoxx?
Dr. T. Eggert: The purchase of Aevotis in January 2015 was already connected with the concept of closely interlinking the enzyme development and fermentation of Evocatal with the carbohydrate and process development of Aevotis. The two teams of the companies simply complement each other very well in terms of their skills. As a result, development projects were implemented very quickly across locations. Internally, therefore, the desire to consolidate the "we" with a common team name grew. But also when communicating with our customers it was important to us to communicate the added value that was achieved through the merger of the two biotech companies.
Which competencies are brought together under the company name Evoxx?
Dr. T. Eggert: Under the new company Evoxx Technologies, we have merged the expertise of the enzyme specialist Evocatal with the extensive know-how on carbohydrates from Aevotis. In our company, customers find a partner for the development and implementation of biological processes from the idea to the production of the desired ingredient.
What does the name stand for?
Dr. T. Eggert: In the name Evoxx we refer to our roots: The syllable "evo" was already included in both previous company names. An "x" each represents one of the two founding companies.
In which branches of industry do you see the most important sales sectors?
Dr. T. Eggert: We focus on the development and marketing of enzymes and carbohydrates specifically for the nutrition market. There we see an increasing demand for ingredients with health-promoting properties in the market for functional foods. With our carbohydrates, we will offer new, multifunctional ingredients for the food industry, which above all correspond to the latest scientific studies on healthy nutrition.
With your original company, Evocatal, you were more oriented towards the pharmaceutical industry. Why do you now focus mainly on food?
Dr. T. Eggert: It is correct that at Evocatal the focus was on pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals. With our expertise in the identification and development of enzymes, Evocatal has already had partnerships and customers from the food market. The first cooperation with Aevotis came about in one of these projects. We have always found this market very attractive and were very open to approaches using enzymatic processes.
With the merger that took place in 2015 and the now completed step of merging and renaming, we have created a bundling of enzyme and product know-how based on carbohydrates. With this constellation, we can not only offer services in this market, but also attractive products.
How does Evoxx support the food and beverage industry and for which applications do you develop your specialties?
M. Döring: Malnutrition, insufficient fiber supply and excessive sugar consumption are not only considered to be triggers for obesity, but can also cause various diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. Consumers also hope that food will provide additional benefits for their health and personal wellbeing. We are therefore working on new carbohydrates that are reduced in calories, have a low glycemic index or are prebiotic and can be used in a wide variety of applications and products in the food industry.
In which regions will you be active? Where do you expect the greatest growth opportunities?
Dr. T. Eggert: We still see our main markets here in Europe and the USA. But with the new products in particular, we are also seeing the entry markets across the Atlantic for the first time. The US market will become increasingly important for us in the next few years.
Where are the Evoxx research and development locations?
Dr. T. Eggert: We have two competence centers: In Monheim we develop enzymes from identification and optimization to strain development and fermentation. Fermentation processes are developed there for transfer to our contract manufacturers. The competence center in Potsdam deals with process and product development. The main carbohydrate products are developed there until they are ready for the market and their application profile is tested. The coordination of the registration as well as the transfer to the production service provider takes place from Potsdam.
What collaborations does Evoxx have in the field of research and development?
M. Döring: As an SME, Evoxx is very open to collaborations with academic, institutional and industrial partners. Due to the constantly increasing technological complexity, partners with very specific knowledge, mechanical equipment or certificates are required. Particularly in the case of enzymes that are used in the food sector, there is demand for certain qualities such as kosher and halal, which Evoxx then has its cooperation partners produce. But we also employ young academics as part of their master’s, diploma or doctoral theses. This is rounded off by active partnerships in publicly funded projects such as "FuPol" or "Inmare".
(Editor's note: The “FuPol” innovation alliance deals with the development of biocatalysts for the functionalization of polymers and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
The project "Inmare" ("Industrial Applications of Marine Enzymes: Innovative screening and expression platforms to discover and use the functional protein diversity from the sea") is funded by the European program "Horizon 2020" and aims to identify new enzymes and Identify metabolites in sometimes extreme oceanic habitats.
What are your goals for the next few years?
Dr. T. Eggert: In the coming years we have set ourselves two important goals: Firstly, we will launch the product Fibermalt as a slowly digestible carbohydrate in 2017, initially in the USA and then in Europe. Other products will follow with their market launch in the following years. This means that regulatory issues as well as production and sales are clearly in the foreground. In addition, we will deal intensively with the subject of enzyme production. In recent years we have invested in our own process development and small-volume production facilities. Now we want to take the step to our own production facility and produce our enzymes in sufficient quantities ourselves.
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