The Story of ChemCon
From foundation to a stable SME
In 2022 ChemCon is celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary. We invite you to join us onto a little tour into the days when ChemCon was founded, the early business years, ChemCon today and a little peak into the future!
The Very Beginning
ChemCon’s roots date back to 1992. PhD-student Peter Gockel worked on the synthesis of bioinorganic complexes at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany and was later joined by graduating student Raphael Vogler. Over and over again, the two young academics mulled over a way to use their expertise on the synthesis of highly potent bioinorganic APIs in a niche of rare life-saving specialty compounds.
On January 29, 1997, the two chemists signed a partnering contract to found the consulting company ChemCon (Chemistry with Consulting). Customers from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries were not only seeking for advice but also for manufacturers of small quantities of highly effective special active ingredients. In 1998, the two consultants decided to invest in their own cleanroom laboratory in the Freiburg Biotechnology Park. They were supported by the Freiburg Founder Association (Gründerverbund) and the Initiative Young Innovators (Junge Innovatoren).
ChemCon’s first API production took place in a six-liter three-neck round-bottom flask. The logo is still reminiscent of this very first project. Although production capacities have since increased significantly, ChemCon is still able to produce such small quantities. In 1999 ChemCon opened a research and development laboratory and in only two years turned into a fully functioning CDMO.
In 2000 the US FDA knocked on the doors of a very young ChemCon, which was already exporting to the US. The result was magnificent: ChemCon became Germany’s youngest company to pass the first FDA inspection and facility approval without deficiency. On top, the end-product of ChemCon's customer received the fastest NDA approval for an anti-cancer agent in the FDA history at the time.
A Growing Company
From Start-up to a medium-sized Enterprise
From the first day until today, ChemCon’s main focus is a tailor-made service for each individual customer. The founders realized quite early on, that such individual requirements could not easily be met by use of external service providers. In 2001 ChemCon started in-house quality control to ensure optimum analytical support for their customers. Another service that ChemCon started in its very early days and maintains until today is the building or modification of custom-made, dedicated equipment to reduce safety risk and costs. With a cleanroom, a research laboratory, quality control, quality assurance and a workshop in place, ChemCon was now able to offer all-round support for their customers.
In the following years, ChemCon grew continuously. The founders extended their business from bioinorganic chemistry to small-molecule organic chemistry. Between 2001 and 2014 ChemCon invested in a second research laboratory (2003), two more cleanrooms (2004) and extensive laboratory equipment. ChemCon team also received approval to operate an in-house S2 microbiology laboratory in 2003.
In 2004, the young business was awarded with the L-Bank Award, demonstrating excellent management skills. Ten years into the production business, in 2008, the Team ChemCon already counted 60 members of staff. Inspections and customer audits became frequent, and since the first FDA inspection in 2000, ChemCon has been inspected thrice more by the FDA and ten times by regional German health authorities. In 2009, ChemCon received the first ISO certification and was awarded the STEP Award in for their innovative “dedicated equipment” production strategy.
A Globally Active CDMO
Today, it is hard to imagine that ChemCon started operating on 250 m2 (2690 sq. ft.) within the BioTechpark Freiburg. The 130-employee company is today the largest privately held enterprise founded as part of the Innovationspark Freiburg at the end of the 1990s. With growing success, ChemCon frequently creates new jobs and has been approved to train apprentices for many years.
In 2015, ChemCon invested in a brand new, state-of-the art cleanroom facility. Significant further investments into ChemCon’s analytical suite include Gel Permeation Chromatography and Ion Chromatography beside ICP-MS (later also ICP-OES). Since 2016 ChemCon's analytical services have been available to customers as conntract analytics independently from synthesis projects.
ChemCon specializes on the small-scale production of individual niche products. Nevertheless, ChemCon and their customers are in the favorable position that projects are growing from small to medium scale, i.e. several hundred kilograms per year. To accustom to the demand of larger batch sizes, in 2016 ChemCon opened a department of process engineering. The team takes care of efficient scale-ups and ensures the process safety for lager batches. The equipment was extended by a reaction calorimeter. The company also started to expand its production capacities with additional multipurpose equipment and cleaning validations alongside the company’s dedicated equipment strategy.
In 2017, ChemCon's production capacities were expanded by another production cleanroom and in 2018 another laboratory for development and production of technical batches. The state-of-the-art equipment also allows for even better handling of highly potent and cytotoxic material.
But not all investments are so clearly visible: Occupational and environmental health and safety enjoy highest priority beyond legal requirements. Thus, a lot happens behind the scene, too: Recent investments include independent cooling technology, improved exhaust-filters and an additional ventilation system.