German biotechnology company i3 Membrane has received a seven-digit investment for its ultra-thin metal filters that can capture nanoparticles. Investors include High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) in Bonn, Innovationsstarter Fonds in Hamburg, Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Sachsen mbH (MBG) in Dresden and a private US investor.
The investment will go toward the development and launching of i3 Membrane's separation technology. The company develops ultra-thin metal coatings to be applied on conventional membranes, which can then be charged with an electric current to capture charged nanoparticles such as viruses and cytotoxins – and can be controlled using a computer. This makes biotechnological processes more efficient and simple, while filters become smaller and more environmentally friendly.
Dr. Stephan Brinke-Seiferth, CEO at i3 Membrane, explains how the company's technology works: “Our new separation technology involves the application of ultra-thin metal coatings to standard polymer membranes without impairing their porosity. The membranes, which have to date been filtering particles and biological substances such as bacteria in a purely mechanical fashion, can now capture viruses which are 10 to 100 times smaller – by applying an electrical charge of only 1 Volt to the metal coating.”
Where separation technology was purely mechanical in the past, this invention now takes it into the digital age. Most biologically active compounds such as proteins, antibodies, viruses or DNA are charged, and can be captured using an opposing charge. The electrically chargeable membrane not only facilitates the capture and release of these particles, but allows for these processes to be controlled digitally.
As far as applications, i3 Membrane has successfully launched a particularly compact sterile filter which protects patients from germs in hospitals. Other products are under development in the areas of biotechnology, diagnostics and water treatment.
The membrane market achieves annual sales of $15 billion worldwide, and 50 percent of sales are in the medical and pharmaceutical sector.
“We are convinced of this intelligent yet simple production process and the new characteristics displayed by the filter membranes. And we are delighted to support the experienced team in growing their company”, commented Dr. Marianne Mertens, Investment Manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds.
“We regard the new separation technology at i3 as extremely technologically innovative and assume that it can be used to create a new generation of membranes based on this platform technology,” added Dörte Bunge from Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg.
Read more: High-Tech Gründerfonds (Press release)