“I am a strong believer that anything is possible if you just put your mind and focus to it and I’m highly motivated by people telling me something cannot be done.” This is Erik Gatenholm’s steadfast approach to life that has helped him successfully create the world’s first bio-ink company CELLINK.
Gatenholm, who is the winner of ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ for 2018, always yearned to cater high-end products and services that would create ripples of significance and positive impact in the world. The notion gave him the inspiration to be a part of the medical industry and take it newer heights. Armed with a degree in business management from Virginia Tech University and an MBA from Gothenburg University, Gatenholm’s entrepreneurial skills were strengthened in addition to his ardent passion to make a difference in the medical world, eventually paving the way to create CELLINK.
The uniqueness of CELLINK
CELLINK is a revolutionary andground-breaking 3D Bioprinting platform that enables researchers and scientists to print human tissues and organs, which in turn can be used to develop new drugs and cosmetic products. The company aims to deliver end-to-end solution for scientists and enable them to begin bioprinting, including products such as the novel bio-ink, cost-effective bioprinters, consumables, and even educational packages for high schools and universities. Erik said: “We believe in building a community. Today, we have 300+ researchers in more than 40 countries worldwide utilizing our products together tochange the world of medicine. CELLINK is not only a bio-ink and bioprinting company, it is a global research solutions company. We have not yet taken it upon ourselves to work on creating human organs. We are working 24/7 on creating technology that can help others achieve this.”
As an entrepreneur, Gatenholm believes that the quality of a company’s products and services is a testament to its success and says that he strives to bring ‘value to customers, through excellent customer support and making sure that the entire organisation constantly revolves around the customer’.
Currently, the company is trying to revolutionise personalised medicine by working with a French company called CTIOBIOTECH to bio-print cancer tumors. They are taking tissue from a tumour to replicate and then test various treatments to determine which would treat them the best.
Inception of CELLINK
The roots of Erik’s passion for 3D printing lie in his father who was one of the main researchers at Chalmers University where several researchers and organisations decided to develop a biomaterial that could be used for growing human cartilage.
Working in association with Dr Hector Martinez, a tissue engineer at Chalmers University, the duo started investigating 3D bioprinting. Upon a closer look at the research, Gatenholm comprehended the commercial opportunity of 3D bioprinting as well as its challenges. He was determined to step in the world of bioprinting by smoothing its creases.
“There was no company in the world focused on making the actual bio-ink for the bioprinters. I love being first so we quickly claimed it by purchasing the technology and IP from the researcher at Chalmers, started selling the product online, and fired up the company that is today CELLINK,” said Erik.
Gatenholm believes that a good team is the pillar of any organization and greatly values his team. However, while starting CELLINK, he faced major issue while building his team. Discussing how he prevailed through the situation, Erik stated: “As a small startup, it is always challenging to compete with larger organizations that can offer a wide range of benefits that startups might not always be able to offer. The big learning experience in this has been to constantly focus on the amazing journey that team members get to be part of that other companies simply cannot compete with. I think that when a new employee is faced with the option of joining a large organization where changes come slowly and where the ability to standout is much smaller versus working at a rapidly changing company where the main drive is to change the world of medicine, the choice is much easier.”
After Erik’s passion started taking shape in the US and Europe, he decided to ship his first product to South Africa and is currently mapping its expansion in Asia. Talking about his ‘super exciting’ expansion plan, he said: “There is a lot of exciting research ongoing in Africa that many might not be aware of. Our major focus has been within the US and Europe when we launched and now we are further establishing ourselves in Asia. We believe the Asian markets will thrive with the help of several leading research institutions throughout various countries there. We have had tremendous support and interest from both the corporate and academic communities in Asia who are interested in 3D Bioprinting. We recently opened an office at Kyoto University in Japan and look forward to working closer with our collaborators in that part of the world.”
Pertaining to the sky-rocketing expenses of the 3D Bioprinting technology, the financial capability to avail the technology is restricted to a specific number of people. Viewing this issue as a major drawback, Erik believes more people should be able to reap the benefits of the technology. Also, the rise of cost-effective technology within 3D Bioprinting will lead to a massive impact on how the technology is used for various forms of research. “The more people who can get their hands on 3D Bioprinting technology, the higher chance we have of changing the future of healthcare and medicine,” he added.
For the future, he wants to provide the best technology possible at an enviable price and looks forward to extend CELLINK’s collaboration with research institutions and corporations. “We want to learn from what they are doing now to create technology that is needed to help them succeed. Our goal is to have our systems in every lab all around the world,” he concluded.
Message for budding entrepreneurs
A person who has always been intricately dedicated to his dream, and turned his passion into his soul, has opined that the entrepreneurs with dreams should do the same to make it big. And, they should definitely be passionate about their dreams. “Without passion you won’t succeed,” said Erik.
“The goal to succeed financially is always a driving factor but if you are not truly passionate about what you’re doing, that drive will eventually fade away. There will be many times where you will struggle and the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far in the distance. If you have that constant love and passion for what you do, you will still see the flicker of light even on the darkest days. I live for my company and dedicate all of myself to making it succeed,” inspired Erik.