We talked to Dr. Gerhard Hartwich of FRIZ Biochem, about revolutionizing COVID-19 testing, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: Fortunately, my whole family and I are healthy and well, all things considering. Thank you for your concern. We get used to the current situation, but sometimes it is still difficult to keep our distance to protect our loved ones. So we all look forward to things going back to normal sometime this year, and my team at FRIZ Biochem and I do our best to achieve this shared goal.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded FRIZ Biochem.
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: After graduating from university and because of my interest in basic scientific research, I decided to pursue a classic academic career at first. During my postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, I conducted electrochemical research on the subject of charge transfer along with DNA molecules and, as a result, grew more and more interested in taking technology from the bench to bedside. These studies and the knowledge gained from them then formed the launchpad for today’s technology at FRIZ Biochem.
How does FRIZ Biochem innovate?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: Our lab direct RT-PCR technology allows us to quantitatively detect COVID-19 RNA, including the mutant strain B.1.1.7, via PCR analysis in just 52 minutes directly from an unprocessed patient sample and on any commercially available PCR cycler. In addition, with our CYCLE®-PoC system, we developed an innovative, fully automated, and portable MDx platform technology that provides rapid results without the need for complicated laboratory infrastructure. CYCLE®-PoC can be used for various types of disease management, e.g., MRSA hospital admission screenings. All of this is possible thanks to our diverse team of highly qualified chemists, biologists, and physicists with extensive experience in research and development in the field of molecular diagnostics. Together we strive to provide and develop new technologies continuously.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: We were very fortunate to develop innovative tools for in vitro diagnostics, which are experiencing increased demand due to the coronavirus. At the beginning of the pandemic, we decided to adjust our lab direct RT-PCR technology for SARS-CoV-2 detection and were able to manage this technology transfer in a few months successfully. So we are doing well, and we were able to develop further our test to detect the mutation variant.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: As we are a relatively small team, the increased demand for our tests was new to us at first, and our production, as well as our commercial team, have encountered various challenges. However, together we have been able to adapt to the situation very quickly.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: In the course of the pandemic, the use of digital technologies is becoming increasingly important. The lack of direct contact with our customers was a bit unusual at first, but this development also enables us to coordinate more often and therefore more closely with our customers and partners. At the same time, this has significantly increased our reach.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Gerhard Hartwich: I believe that 2020 has shown that flexibility, open-mindedness towards new topics as well as the ability to adapt to change are the keys to a company’s success. However, and most importantly, you need a team that shares your vision to achieve your goals.