Helping people become healthy

Date: February 2024

This profile is part of a series called In It Together, which shines a light on members of the PROGEN team and their contribution to the gene therapy community. The PROGEN team consists of life science and adeno-associated virus (AAV) experts who deliver high quality antibody and exclusive AAV products in order to solve research challenges within academia, biotech, and pharma.


In his youth, Maik Lander found himself at ease studying biology, chemistry, and math. So when it came time to pick a course of study at university, it was a natural choice to pursue degrees in chemical engineering and biotechnology.

“The clear idea in the beginning of my studies was that I wanted to help people to be healthy,” he said.

After graduating, he worked at a small biotechnology company in northern Germany before making the life-changing decision in 2016 to accept a job offer at PROGEN. Two factors convinced him: how well the people of PROGEN worked together and the fact that the company’s small size would enable him to make a more significant contribution to new gene therapy technologies than would likely have been possible at a larger company.

Now, seven years later, Maik continues to be grateful for the opportunity to guide the company in his current role as co-CEO alongside Katja Betts.

“For me, being the CEO of a company is very different from being a team leader. As a team leader, I could talk about problems with other team leaders but that’s not usually possible when you’re the only CEO. In our case, having a co-CEO means that when one of us faces a difficult decision, we can talk with the other and really understand where they’re coming from,” he said.

“That’s something I really value.”

Having Katja as a sounding board has been invaluable as Maik worked to overcome a number of challenges over the years – from figuring out how to produce many more ELISA kits, a system for measuring the amount of adeno-associated virus protein shells in a sample, without sacrificing quality, to substantially increasing the research and development department, to better meet customers’ needs.

Maik has found that considering what customers want and then delivering it is a fruitful – and never-ending – process. Years ago, he knew that although customers found the ELISA system useful, many wanted an even faster test system. So near the beginning of the pandemic, the head of research and development wondered if PROGEN could use the technology that made rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 so quick and accurate to create a new, speedier test to detect AAVs.

It turns out, they could – and the Dip ‘n ‘Check lateral flow strips were born.

“We are now at the point where diseases that can be fatal, such as spinal muscular atrophy, can be treated with just a single infusion. And I know that in order to develop the drug substances in these infusions, products from PROGEN were used in the research process. This gives me the impression that although we do very small things here, these small things can help support a very large field,” said Maik.

“So it’s really important to understand what our customers need and continue to figure out a way to get it to them.”

 

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Interested in learning more about the PROGEN Team?

Supporting the gene therapy community

Meet Katja Betts, co-CEO of PROGEN and find out why supporting the gene therapy community in developing new therapies is her everyday motivation. 

 

Read more