Cytena is a high-tech success story made in Freiburg – Economy

Lab technician Cytena, founded by students of Freiburg, has made significant progress with the cell printer. The company, which recently moved to the Green City Tower, intends to retain the site.

Which companies in South Baden created the most jobs in 2021 despite the Corona pandemic? What ideas have companies used to find and retain new employees in times of skilled worker shortages? In the Job Motor Competition held for the 16th time, Badische Zeitung and its partners honor outstanding companies. Laboratory technology manufacturer Cytena in Freiburg is one of these companies in the category from 20 to 199 employees due to increased jobs.

A high-tech success story made in Freiburg – this is Cytena. The company was founded in 2014 by four fellow students from the Technical College of the University of Freiburg. It’s been six years since they brought the self-developed cellular printer to market. At that time, the company employed more than ten people – today it is ten times that number.

Cells are not copied, they are isolated

Printing cells is not what an office employee thinks of as printing. Cells are not created or copied, they are isolated. The goal is to isolate small droplets from a cell culture at high speed, each approximately 0.05 mm in diameter. A single cell with a diameter of only 0.015 mm is located in this drop. Putting four or five of them side by side would be the width of a human hair.

Single cells are important raw materials in research and development, for example, of cancer drugs. But for cells to be used at all, there must be many identical cells. This is why it is so important to print the cell in a process that is reliable, repeatable, and not damaged in the process. Cytena made a breakthrough here a few years ago, and thus gained an international reputation.

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Cell isolation technology has been around since the 1980s. But above all, Cytena provided reliable monitoring and documentation of how well the isolation of cells worked. For this, the company received many awards in the first years of its existence, including the Innovation Award from the state of Baden-Württemberg. Word quickly got around that Breisgau’s cellular printers work especially reliably.

Cytena now belongs to the group

This is another reason why Cytena is a target for investors. Three years ago, biotech holding company Bico acquired Cytena, making it part of a group that includes 1,150 well-rounded employees and 14 companies, and recently generated sales of €120 million. The Swedish American Group does not publish sales figures for individual companies. However, sales are likely to be in the double-digit million range. The world’s leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies buy Cytena.

Meanwhile, the company run by Julian Felix Ripa has evolved from a specialist in cellular printers to a system provider. In addition to laboratory equipment, software, accessories, and reagents are also manufactured and sold. Each new development learns to walk in Freiburg, and production takes place in Germany.

Challenge: Finding qualified employees

The growing demand for personalized medicine, that is, medicines tailored to the patient, is helping Cytena. Because many developments are only possible with technology from Freiburg. The challenge facing the company: to find qualified employees.

“We’re looking around the world,” says Marketing Director Fabian Stumpf. In the last year alone, the number of employees in Freiburg increased from 32 to 89. Cytena employs about 140 people worldwide. Molecular biologists are in demand just like software developers. In addition to qualifying, it is very important that the newcomers also fit in with the team. “Although this greatly reduces the pool of candidates and thus makes successful recruitment more difficult, this approach pays off significantly in everyday working life,” says Stumpf. “Great team cohesion is definitely a guarantee of strong employee loyalty.”

Cytena relies on many team events, flexible hours, childcare allowance – and brand-new offices. The company recently moved from the main building in the Freiburg exhibition center to another notable property: the Green City Tower in the charging station. The company has secured 4,500 square meters on six floors in one of the wings of the tower complex – and the rooftop terrace. At the same time, there are considerations of how to develop the company further if things are very tight there. But what is certain is that the future lies in Freiburg, says Stumpf.

Of the four founders, two remain on the board: Chief Technology Officer Andre Gross and Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Stemmel, who will leave the company for the foreseeable future. Jonas Schöndube now works for the parent company in the USA and Peter Koltay continues to work at the Institute for Microsystems Technology (Imtek) in Freiburg. The cellular printer was developed under the direction of Koltay. Operationally, it has never been a part of the company. Focuses on research and teaching.

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