EmulTech, the TU/e spin-off of Robin de Bruijn and Fränk de Jong, has acquired an important investment for the purpose of improving the production process of drug release systems.
Drug release systems control the delivery of drugs. EmulTech has developed a process for the production of these systems: droplet formation in microchannels. De Bruijn: “Our method gives you much more control over the end product (droplets). The size of the droplets is absolutely key. All the droplets that deviate from the prescribed size and ratio are unusable because this would mean that the patient receives too much or too little of the drug. This is why currently some forty percent of the total quantity is thrown away. The technology of EmulTech means that the size and content of the droplets are measured very precisely, whereby you need fewer expensive ingredients.”
Contact with customers
De Bruijn developed the method for producing uniform droplets during the final year of his study at the department of Chemical Engineering. “I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to use this method in practice. TU/e Innovation Lab helped me set up the company. They posed the right critical questions, forced me to focus.” De Bruijn was also advised to make contact with potential customers early on. Because they know what the method could add to the current production process. “Not only was I able to improve my method in this way but I was also able to build up a relationship with my potential customers.” That proved to be a good choice. “I started for a number of companies on a project basis. It then became clear at once what needed to be improved in my product. After all, a customer has to be willing to part with his money for your advice and so he or she is therefore always 100 percent honest. That’s valuable to an entrepreneur.”
He does have a tip for TU/e Innovation Lab though. “I think it would be nice if there was some kind of collective brand name, which would attract serious interest from investors and customers early on. As a small entrepreneur you have to work hard to show what you’re made of. Take Silicon Valley, for example. If you have a business there, people sit up and take notice. Without investors it is almost impossible for a tech start-up to keep its head above water.”
The company has now been around almost five years. “We had to make our method applicable if we wanted to ultimately have the market take up our technology. In 2009 I claimed that it would take us ten years to succeed. With the investment we have not got, I expect us to do so!”