The success of BioAgilytix’s European headquarters has been made possible by the commitment of our employees, especially those who have been with the company since the very beginning. These people have witnessed the evolution of the company from a small regional player to a global laboratory and have a perspective that is incredibly valuable to the future of BioAgilytix. In this Q&A session, we get to know Gabi Schewe, Lab Manager and longtime employee at BioAgilytix’s Hamburg location, as she discusses how the company has evolved since its founding and what has made its team successful in the long-term.
Tell us a little about your scientific background.
I started my career at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany in the 80s, during a very innovative time for Molecular Biology. It was exciting to see all the scientific progress being made at that time, and I was able to work in a number of bioanalytical areas on research that was state of the art at that time. After five years at the University of Düsseldorf, I started working for a company in the industry, and after five years there I moved into the academic world by taking a job in a research laboratory at Michigan State University, USA. Although I enjoyed that work, I knew I ultimately wanted to go back into the industry. I ended up moving back to Germany and worked at the University of Hamburg for three years while I looked for the right-fit opportunity. The job I ended up taking in a diagnostic lab set me up to be a part of IPM Biotech and eventually BBioAgilytix’s laboratory in Hamburg, Germany.
How did you come to join IPM Biotech, now BioAgilytix’s European headquarters?
I have been with IPM Biotech since shortly after its founding in 1996. I initially met Arno Kromminga, IPM’s founder, when we were both working in the diagnostic laboratory I mentioned above. There we were exposed to the investigation and diagnostics of autoimmune diseases. This brought us to the work about unwanted immune responses against recombinant erythropoietin (EPO). This experience was the starting point of our understanding of immunogenicity, and it inspired Arno to start IPM Biotech for the research of chronic inflammatory diseases and drug-induced immune responses. Arno brought me along to be a part of a team of four people who got the company off the ground.
Tell us a little about your current role and how has it evolved?
When I first started with IPM Biotech everyone had to do a little bit of everything, from performing the assays to cleaning the labs. It was a lot of hard work, but it was such an exciting time for our business and bioanalysis. Our work began to pay off quickly, and we were actually involved in some of the very first cases of immunogenicity. We would ask the question, “is it possible to have antibodies against any biological protein drug?” and then work to find the answers. It was so thrilling to be there at the beginning; we supported the first biosimilar EPO launch in Europe and contributed to the first biosimilar EPO filed in the USA. Since our startup days there have been a lot of changes, but I have always maintained a great relationship with Arno. As IPM Biotech grew from four people to now over 60 here in Hamburg, Arno requested that I take on a facilities management role. I make sure that everyone has the resources they need to complete their jobs effectively and efficiently. After working in the laboratory for over 30 years, this new role has been an exciting change. Now I have the opportunity to interact with everyone across the company and act as a resource on many different aspects of the business.
How are you able to see the impact of the work you do on a larger scale?
In my new role, I see the impact of the work that I do very directly. When the company is running smoothly, I know I have done my job effectively. I work hard to make sure that everyone has everything they need so that they can do a good job and deliver for our customers – which ultimately results in getting more much-needed large molecule drugs to market.
What do you think has made BioAgilytix’s European headquarters/IPM Biotech successful for so many years?
The company works because people like to work here. Because the employees are committed to our mission, they more effectively produce the quality of work that our customers require. People genuinely enjoy their jobs; Arno is good at rallying the team together, which has created a great collaborative environment at all levels of the company. Additionally, we are always looking towards the future. Arno truly drives that approach by thinking about how to bring in cutting-edge technologies or how to innovate our approaches. The resulting advancements help us to stay relevant for our customers.
How would you describe BioAgilytix’s company culture?
I was honestly a little nervous when IPM Biotech was acquired by BioAgilytix in 2016, because they were a US company and I didn’t want us to lose the culture we had developed over the years. Luckily, that did not happen; we are one company, but everyone understands and respects that we have special European and US behaviors. Our leadership team embraces these differences and doesn’t try to make us all be the same. In fact, having diverse perspectives and ways of doing things actually enhances our culture as an overall company.
What is your favorite thing about working at BioAgilytix’s European headquarters?
At this point in my career, I am able to act as a resource for the rest of the employees because I have been with the company for so long. It is great to have people appreciate my perspective on the company and the larger industry. It has been gratifying to watch the company grow while maintaining the culture and passion we started with so many years ago. It is also exciting to see the innovative work that is being carried out, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I have to be a part of it all.
Interested in hearing from other BioAgilytix team members? You can find other Q&A sessions from our employees here.