7.4. 2016 Kuukauden kasvo

Biovian as life’s work

Biovian Ltd has grown into a well-known contract manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals over a period of 13 years. The company is run by the founding core team who continue their close co-operation.

Located in the BioCity building in Turku Science Park, Biovian was founded in 2003 and specialises in contract manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals. The five original shareholders have worked in the company since Biovian was founded and began exports of contract development and manufacturing services of pharmaceuticals. Biovian’s early history involves acquisition of premises and personnel through a management buyout from the founders’ former employer, Biotie Corporation. At first, the company employed 14 people, but now the number of employees is close to 50.

”In the last two years, we have hired around seven new employees per year, and the trend will continue this year. We have already signed employment contracts with three new people. It’s a great reward for me to be able to work in a positive trend with the opportunity to hire more highly educated personnel to expand the company’s scope of operations. Turku offers the opportunity to study biotechnology, so it’s great that we also have jobs”, says Biovian’s CEO Knut Ringbom.

Provider of added value

Biovian is a contract manufacturer which offers its customers development of pharmaceutical production processes and manufacture of research drug required for completing clinical studies. Using drug candidates developed by, for example, research groups and drug development companies, Biovian produces drug molecules for clinical studies, which the customer can patent or sell to pharmaceutical manufacturers after completing the studies. Biopharmaceuticals are usually based on a biological mechanism which helps the body to cure the disease. Examples of biopharmaceuticals include recombinant proteins, antibodies, and genetically modified viruses.

“We are a service provider and have managed to create added value for our customers’ processes and help in generating success stories. Our customers comprise of drug development companies and other research companies to which we provide development and manufacturing services as turnkey solutions, and thus also produce documentation for the marketing permit applications of pharmaceuticals. Sometimes bigger companies acquire our customer companies or invest capital in them”, Dr Ringbom says.

The owners work in the company

Dr Ringbom considers it important that Biovian can help keep Turku at the forefront of drug development. A lot of work has been done for it.

”The company is managed from the front, not from the back, and we still pull together. It’s definitely a strength that all shareholders are highly committed to the company and work in it. We wanted to throw ourselves into a business like this, and we have worked humbly for it. At first we left no stone unturned to find customers, because nobody was going to come to Turku to knock on our door”, Dr Ringbom says.

Now Biovian has gained a strong foothold in Europe and is doing well in international competition. It has customers in all the Nordic countries and Great Britain, as well as in Asia and some in the United States. The biggest competitors are giant companies controlled by private equity investors, but Biovian has made it with income financing without external investors. The company’s premises have been flexibly expanded to the current 2,700 square metres in the same building.

International and awarded

Biovian has done well measured by many indicators. The number of employees has increased, and turnover has grown profitably to nearly seven million euros. A year ago, Biovian received the acclaimed BioFinland Prize as a recognition for its international top-quality expertise in research and manufacturing services that use biotechnology. The prize is granted by Finnish Bioindustries FIB and the Finnish Fair Foundation. The achievements stated in the reasoning included, for example, the steady growth of revenues, large share of exports (70–80%), investments in modern biotechnology, and creating new jobs.5

Inspired by industry

Biovian has become Knut Ringbom’s life’s work which he started after gathering experience in big companies, Valmet’s paper machine industry and Wallac’s diagnostics. BioTie was the first step in small companies. He always aimed at a career in industry. Working as a researcher did not attract him, but the knowledge of biotechnology can be continuously utilised as the CEO of a high technology company. Knut Ringbom also likes to work with other people, and he is inspired by controlling of large entities and thinking about multi-dimensional patterns.

“Biovian is by far the greatest and most valuable experience in my career. I can warmly recommend taking on the challenge if you get such an opportunity. You just have to ask yourself whether you have what it takes. In a small company it’s possible to really have influence. We can also see the general development of the industry. At the moment, the outlook is very positive, because the demand for precision drugs is growing rapidly”, Dr Ringbom says.

Not just work

Due to confidentiality, he can’t and doesn’t want to take his work home. Dr Ringbom considers it necessary to shake off stress by jogging, and in the winter in downhill skiing.

“In addition, my family and the time spent with them have always been very important to me. They always understand me, and I need not have a bad conscience, although at some point I was travelling very much on business.”

Dr Ringbom’s wife is a public health nurse, and they have two sons. The younger one is in the army and will after that start studies of a Master of Science in information technology, while the older one has already moved out and studies business administration.

Spending time at summer cottage in Korpo with his family is Dr Ringbom’s favourite way to relax.

“It’s wonderful to go out to nature. The cottage originates from the 1970s and is quite ascetic. I enjoy chopping firewood, fishing and boating. We are dog lovers and have two mixed-breeds. We also pick mushrooms. There’s an internet connection at the cottage, but I only work there in exceptional cases. When you have a demanding job, leisure time is very important”, Kurt Ringbom says.

Text and photos: Anne Kortela

Knut Ringbom

Born in Turku in 1966
Biovian Ltd, CEO and founding shareholder

Education:
1991 M.Sc., Åbo Akademi University, process engineering
1994 Lic.Sc. (Tech.), Åbo Akademi University, process engineering/bioprocess engineering
1998 D.Sc. (Tech.), Åbo Akademi University, process engineering/bioprocess engineering

Career:
1995–1998 Valmet Corporation (paper machines)
1998–2000 Wallac Oy (Perkin Elmer)
2000–2003 BioTie Corporation
2003–12/2012 Biovian Ltd, Project/Sales Director
1/2013- Biovian Ltd, CEO

Family: Wife (public health nurse) and two sons (born in 1993 and 1996), pets: 2 mixed-breed dogs.

Hobbies: jogging, downhill skiing, summer cottage, boating, fishing.