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Lutz Hilbrich | CEO | ProBioGen

Lutz Hilbrich: Envisioning a World with No Fear of Sickness

The formula for an organization’s growth can differ from leader to leader, but the one thing that remains common in all of them is their enthusiasm to collaborate with people. Once the leader has established a teamwork spirit within his/her people, then ideas for growth and innovations can flow smoothly within the organization without hesitation.

Every other company, as we all know, is undergoing a transformation majorly aided by technology. Biopharmaceutical companies are no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the demand for developing strong and sustaining medicinal solutions. It has placed enormous responsibility on the leaders of biopharmaceutical companies to manufacture and develop ground-breaking solutions for new and old diseases.

As the leader of two biopharmaceutical enterprises, Lutz Hilbrich believes in fulfilling these responsibilities through effective collaboration with his people. Being the CEO of ProBioGen and MiGenTra, he aims to develop innovative solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s diseases with the collective efforts of the entire teams.

ProBioGen is a renowned Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) and technology provider. It develops and manufactures unique and individualized biopharmaceutical drug candidates reliably and rapidly. Its innovative technologies can elevate clients’ products to the highest yield, potency, quality, and safety levels.

Without further ado, let’s get to know more interesting insights about Lutz Hilbrich and how he effectively keeps ProBioGen on the growth track.

Managing Responsibilities with Honor and Humility

Since joining ProBioGen in June 2020, Lutz has focused first and foremost on what he considers the company’s biggest asset – its people. He believes that “success is not a one-person show.” This is why he has an open-door policy and has kept aside a two-hour timeslot every Monday morning for anyone in the company for feedback, to ask for advice, or just to chat.

As the CEO of ProBioGen and its subsidiary MiGenTra, Lutz notes that he has to travel frequently and also has to take care of many other responsibilities. Due to this, he mentions that the time he can reserve for the interactions is becoming infrequent, but still, he manages to facilitate as many interactions as possible.

Furthermore, on creating a strong team, he says, “We aim to hire and retain dedicated employees, whom we call ‘ProBioGeniuses,’ as they are crucial to our productivity and success.”

Lutz has constantly been working on growing the company. In the past two years, the firm has accelerated its path of expanding capacity and diversifying. Mid 2021, ProBioGen incorporated its subsidiary MiGenTra, which develops biosimilars, vaccines, and cell and gene therapies for the Middle East and African continent.

Together, we aim to transform the lives of millions in urgent medical need with modern biological medicines at affordable prices,” quotes Lutz.

As the CEO of both MiGenTra and ProBioGen, Lutz focuses on carrying out the responsibilities with “honor and humility.”

Enhancing the Operations of ProBioGen

ProBioGen is a biopharmaceutical enterprise in Berlin that operates globally and has 28 years of experience. The company has a staff of over 250 at its three locations in Berlin.

The company started in 1994 with just four people as a production partner for diagnostic antibodies. “We have experienced steady growth by increasing capacity as well as diversifying our business segments,” says Lutz.

Today, ProBioGen is not only a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) but also a technology provider. It partners with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to develop and manufacture biopharmaceutical active ingredients and vaccines for medicines. “We engineer cell lines, develop optimal processes and technologies, and ensure consistent and controlled quality standards,” highlights Lutz.

The company uses proprietary technologies to optimize biopharmaceutical manufacturing and analysis. It also offers process development services and manufacturing technologies for viral vaccines.

Speaking about the ambitions of ProBioGen, Lutz says, “Our vision is that in the future, no one will have to fear getting sick. We can achieve this by helping today develop tomorrow’s medicines— also for diseases that are not yet curable.

He adds,“We aim to accomplish this with knowledge and technologies based on our core values: innovation, passion, partnership, solutions, and being fearless.

Offering Individualized and Unique Solutions

ProBioGen is an innovative Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization, not a classic Contract Manufacturing company. Speaking about its specialized offerings, the CEO says, “Our strong scientific foundation enables us to combine intelligent and modular services with innovative platform technologies. This allows us to offer clients individualized and unique solutions, unlike the competition.

ProBioGen’s proprietary technologies, like GlymaxX®, fucose-targeted glycoengineering used to make antibodies against cancer and infectious diseases more potent and DirectedLuck™ Transposase, an efficient gene delivery system to increase production levels of desired proteins, resulting in better outcomes for its clients. “Our patent portfolio is continuously expanding. This is what makes a difference in the value proposition,” denotes Lutz.

Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges

ProBioGen has faced various challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had to ensure stable supply chains and the availability of consumables and was physically cut off from some overseas customers. “To overcome this, we – and by that, I mean every employee – have had to remain flexible and agile,” says Lutz.

Together with the executive team, I am aiming to give our employees a sense of security at all times. This is an indispensable foundation to face future challenges as well.”

Embracing the Technology

Modern technological inventions are making it possible for every industry to take its operations to the next level. Speaking about how today’s advanced technology can enhance the pharmaceutical industry’s functions, Lutz emphasizes, “There are many problems that require new solutions. This is true in medicine and R&D, but also in how existing medicines and vaccines are distributed around the world. Advanced technologies can help the health industry tackle these problems.”

Furthermore, he notes that “At ProBioGen, we continuously develop and expand our innovative and advanced technology portfolio. We embrace technologies that benefit our customers, and ultimately, the patients we all serve.”

Meet the ProBioGeniuses

People are an invaluable asset for any company. Building a team of experts needs time, patience, and, most importantly, an ability to recognize the potential of each one. Speaking about the executive team at ProBioGen, Lutz says, “Our executive team’s strength comes from working together to realize our mission.”

ProBioGen’s talented executive team includes Dr. Gabriele Schneider, Chief Business Officer; Andrea Hauptmann, Chief Financial Officer; Dr. René Brecht, Chief Operations Officer; Dr. Volker Sandig, Chief Scientific Officer; Dr. Marco Riedel, Senior Vice President, Head of Digital Transformation; and Susanne Kaestner, Senior Vice President, Quality.

Some have been with ProBioGen for over 20 years, others joined more recently, and all add invaluable knowledge and experience to our team,” adds the CEO.

Word of Advice

Guidance from the wise can be worth gold to many entrepreneurs looking to follow the right direction and save time and resources. We asked Lutz, what would be his advice to budding entrepreneurs, to which he replied, “Focus on the basis of success: people. By creating a work environment that values our employees’ well-being at work and home, we foster a culture that emphasizes our biggest asset: my colleagues.

He further adds, “Satisfaction is the foundation for higher productivity. I have lived this throughout my entire life: as a student, scientist, medical doctor, and now as CEO.

Speaking about his own motivation to enter the healthcare industry, he says, “Healthcare is not a privilege nor an entitlement. It is a human right. I went to medical school because I believed I could help people directly. Going into biotech has scaled up the impact of the work I was able to do as a practicing physician.

In addition, he says, “As a CEO, I can contribute to finding solutions that affect the lives of millions of people. This is very rewarding and humbling. I would hope budding entrepreneurs share this same sense of mission – helping to turn health as a human right into a reality.

Envisioning a Bright Future

ProBioGen’s future is bright. Its customer base is growing. Sharing further details about what plans are in place at the company to expand its scale, Lutz reveals, “We are extending our capacities and are diversifying, for example, by expanding our viral vector and vaccine business unit and services. Our contribution to breakthrough therapies helps address unmet medical needs.

Lutz feels “deeply unhappy” about the number of unmet medical needs around the world, the inequitable distribution of basic medicines, and, as we painfully witness every day, COVID-19 vaccines, particularly on the African continent.

With our subsidiary MiGenTra, we are developing biosimilars, vaccines, and cell and gene therapies for the Middle East and African continent. This continent is especially overlooked and underserved,” quotes Lutz.

Our work is fully aligned with our vision that no one should fear getting sick, no matter where they live,” concludes Lutz.

The Testimonies of Excellence

“In ProBioGen, we see a company that values scientific contribution and enables high-quality drug development for customers, which ultimately benefits the patients we all serve.”

Senior Director, Biologics Development, Celgene Corporation

“In the midst of an escalating pandemic, ProBioGen successfully managed safety, staffing, and procurement to maintain aggressive timelines for Pionyr’s two first-in-class TME-directed fucosylated monoclonal antibodies.”

Senior Vice President, Technical Operations, Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, Inc.

“Because of ProBioGen’s continuous support and always providing valuable information not only on technical challenges but also urgent issues associated with the project, our teams were able to bring a product from their facility into the clinic as scheduled within several months here in Japan.”

Director, Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls Development, Chiome Bioscience Inc.

Awards and Recognition

  • ESACT Innovation Award for outstanding innovators in the field of Animal Cell Culture Technology, Dr. Volker Sandig, ProBioGen’s Chief Scientific Officer (2019)
  • Innovation Award Berlin-Brandenburg for novel vaccine production methods based on duck cell lines (2009)
  • Animal Protection Award from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection for reducing and replacing animal tests, Dr. Christoph Giese, Head of ProBioGen’s Cell and Tissue Services department (2007)
  • Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Award for one of the fastest growing life sciences companies (2007)
  • STEP Award for products/technologies (2006)