“All Life is Chemistry”

Orgentis Chemicals GmbH describes itself as a bridge between the laboratory and industrial mass production

From Gatersleben and on to the world: if you take a look at the website of Orgentis Chemicals GmbH, written in English, it’s clear that their target group is global players. This medium-sized business in Saxony-Anhalt isolates and purifies natural substances and synthetic products, synthesizes organic compounds, develops chemical synthesis processes and manufactures specialty chemicals for biochemistry and high-tech applications. The company is also making a name for itself through its in-house developments and has, over the years, become a “Hidden Champion.”

“All life is chemistry,” says Hans-Matthias Vorbrodt, who has a doctorate in chemistry. He believes that proteins and peptides are the fundamental building blocks for all “living processes.” He decided to found his firm Orgentis Chemicals because he knew that all types of innovative, chemical processes would always be “in demand” when it came to developing our society.

For more than 30 years now, Vorbrodt has been pursuing innovative, entrepreneurial approaches. Renowned companies across Europe and in Switzerland and the USA turn to the services provided by Orgentis Chemicals when they want to develop chemical synthesis processes – customer-specific methods for manufacturing new active substances from organic molecule compounds. The 20 employees, all well-trained chemists, lab assistants and technicians, help maintain the company’s excellent reputation in the sector. Vorbrodt, now 67, explains that Orgentis has established itself as a “bridge” between laboratories, which research and develop substances, and industry, which then mass-produce these substances: “We are a pilot plant that tests and develops manufacturing processes under operating conditions.” Orgentis customers work in the materials science, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

The firm also releases efficient synthesis processes onto the market that it has developed in-house. One example is its highly efficient polymer beads with specially developed porous structures that are perfectly suited to isolating and purifying biomolecules. According to Vorbrodt, the material has good separating capacity, meaning it can be used in natural product and pharmaceutical chemistry.

Copied from nature

Orgentis Chemicals’ primary focus is on isolating and purifying natural substances. Vorbrodt explains that chemical modification can be used to influence the effects of plant molecules and cites research into isolated active substances from hops and St John’s wort as examples. It is important to find out which substances have positive effects and to amplify them, while minimizing undesirable side effects.

Orgentis is getting its teeth into the building blocks of dentistry by optimizing the production of these materials at its pilot plant, which are now being used by dentists around the world.

Another customer is currently developing a product for medical technology that will help patients to recover after an operation and make surgical procedures safer. These materials are also fine-tuned by Orgentis in Gatersleben to ensure they perform faultlessly in the operating theaters.

Green Gate Gatersleben

Gatersleben in the Vorharz region of Saxony-Anhalt is a center of expertise for plant biotechnology in Germany and one of the Centers of Excellence in Saxony-Anhalt. Green Gate Gatersleben was founded at the beginning of the 1990s as a local initiative run by all the plant biotechnology businesses and institutions in the area and by the public sector. Vorbrodt emphasizes that he has always received a lot of support from the local authorities since locating his business here in 1991 in this center of historical and modern-day plant cultivation. He was already fully committed to green sustainable ideas when the Berlin Wall fell, allowing environmental issues to take greater precedence. Vorbrodt put these ideas into practice in Gatersleben by gradually renovating an old brick sugar factory built in 1847 to make it fit for purpose. The 1,000 m2 site is now home to state-of-the-art multi-purpose labs and pilot plant buildings. “And we produce 80% of our energy ourselves from photovoltaic systems and combined heat and power generation,” adds Vorbrodt.

An area with attractive conditions

After studying chemistry, completing a doctorate and carrying out scientific work at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Vorbrodt researched active substances at the Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Plant Biochemistry in Halle until the beginning of the 1990s. He now works with important partners including the TU Dresden, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Bernburg and various Fraunhofer institutes, as well as the neighboring Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) in Halle.

“For example, the IPB has isolated substances from fungi that can be used as building blocks in the development of new, highly antibiotic active substances to combat late blight in potatoes,” says Vorbrodt, going on to explain that these therapeutic products developed from purely plant-based active substances are very safe and efficient. There is good reason why nature has been an important ally in fighting illness ever since civilization began. Vorbrodt, who was born in Quedlinburg, says that his affinity with nature is one of the reasons why he has stayed in the area where he grew up. “There are many young people today who are just as keen to stay in the region,” he points out. He wants to offer these young people job prospects through attractive training opportunities and employment.

Author: Kathrain Graubaum/IMG Saxony-Anhalt

In many industries, they belong to the innovation drivers in Europe and they are regarded as the originators of Germany's export success. As small to medium-sized companies, they often bring their niche applications to the world market faster than large companies, mostly resulting from in-house research. This self-developed success is one of their secrets.

>> HERE is where Hidden Champions lead the market.