Innovation Blog

Finalist Interview Series: MagnebotiX


Give me the elevator pitch on your company:

MagnebotiX reduces the time and cost of drug development by automating an error-prone, manual process. Developing a new drug takes ~$2.6bn and 10-15 years. Given 20 year patents, a pharma players biggest pain point is immediate launch: 1 year of exclusivity means $1bn in revenues. Our patented technology enables wireless, microrobotic-assisted transport of protein crystals at the nanoscale for their screening as drug candidates. This disruptive technology increases leap time while shrinking costs.

Tell me a little bit about your background: what did you do previously?

I did my undergrad in engineering with focus on micro/nanotechnology in Karsruhe, Germany. During my master thesis I did research in a lab in Japan about integrating carbon nanotubes into nanoelectromechanical devices. After completing my studies in 2009 and a short around-the-world-trip, I started with my PhD in microrobotics at the Swiss Federal institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The magnetic field generator that is driving our microrobot is my PhD baby which led me to co-found MagnebotiX. I was at the same time awarded with a fellowship to conduct my postdoctoral research at MIT, where I am right now, working with that system exploring biomedical applications at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer research. Through a hackathon at MIT Sloan School where I was invited to present my work, I got in touch with MBA candidates and teamed up with Can Kisagun, whos now my team member at MC.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you? How did you first get involved?

As a researcher it is exciting to me to see if something youve been working on makes the move to be applied in the real world. The vision that this could happen combined with quite a portion of curiousity, is what drives me in my work. When I realized that the system could really be used and sold, all of the sudden I had to tackle completely different problems such as outsourcing of manufacturing, dealing with patents and pricing, and how to identify and approach potential customers- and I noticed that I enjoy that :). To me, Entrepreneurship means being brave enough to pave the way for a new idea or product that first only you were convinced about.

Where/when did you have that a-ha! moment for envisioning MagnebotiX?

It was during a public science fair for when we demoed our system with some microrobots playing nanosoccer. We got approached by a crystallographer, David Sargent, who is also a team member of MagnebotiX, who thought these microrobots could be used to do crystal harvesting.

What is the pain point youre hoping to solve with MagnebotiX?

Automation of what is still today a manual process! We have reached the time of High throughput Crystallography, but crystal harvesting is still done manually. There are a gazillion structures still yet to be explored–beam lines are constantly running–so that step needs to be automated.

Why MassChallenge and what are your goals while being involved in the accelerator?

I believe that MassChallange will help Magnebotix set its presence in the Biotechnology start-up capital. I hope that through the program we will expand our network and form relationships with sponsors who can be potential customers.

What is your greatest strength as an entrepreneur? Weakness?

Excitement and passion are my strengths. My weakness is that I worry too much what other people think/trying to make everybody happy.

What do you do to blow off steam when youre taking a break from changing the world?

Haha- I exercise a lot, run the Harvard stadium stairs, workout, running… I can push myself to be totally exhausted forcing myself to take a break 🙂

Whats one quality that you think entrepreneurs need to have — and why?

Focus with persistence- there are ups and downs, actually like in research, but its part of the journey and you have to believe in what youre doing. Evaluate first well, then pick your strategy, stay focussed and channel all energy into that. Im not saying you should not look left or right or tunnel into it–of course you need to always keep a birds-eye view and there might be a situation where it could be beneficial to pivot–but for myself I try to not to get too sidetracked with all the possibilities out there. Were a generation that struggles to commit and tries to keep a lot of opportunities open, but in your startup its all about commitment.

The Startup Showcase is coming up–what excites you about the event?

The opportunity to reach out and show what were doing, seeing peoples reactions and hearing the thoughts of people inside and outside our market. I wish I could bring our system, but its currently at a crystallographer exhibition.

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