The current issue no. 8-2013 of Focus Aargau Magazine reports under the title „A bone-hard business“ on the Medicoat AG. Founder Heiko Gruner provides information about the company, the products and the Canton of Aargau as a business location.
Mr. Gruner, Medicoat specializes in medical coating of cementless implants. Can you explain to me as a lay, what is your business about?
Thus, an implant is easily accepted by the surrounding bone, two requirements must be met: The porous implant surface should be rough, so the structure corresponds to the bone – and the chemistry has to be right. Implants made of metal, plastics or ceramic are first provided with a titanium coating that is very rough. To accelerate the coalescence, an additional layer of synthetic bioactive bone (calcium phosphate) is deposited, so that the surrounding bone is practically forced to accept the coating and fuses with the implant rapidly.
What gave you the idea to coat implants?
I come from a doctors household and studied physics and medicine. I was always fascinated by both areas and our coatings connect them. We started in 1989 in a garage with one coating system. Our advantage was that we brought a product to market that uniquely benefit patients. Today we coat here in Mägenwil annually around 60,000 implants.
What is special about the coating technique?
It takes place in a vacuum. The implant is first heated to above 250 ° C which kills all microorganisms. The adhesion of the layer surpasses the stability of the bone tissue.
You also produce the powder for artificial bone layer. Why is that?
This first of all is a question of quality and we didn’t want to be dependent on suppliers. The powder is produced by Medicoat France. The branch in France we founded after the Swiss EEA-No to have free access to the European market.
Medicoat also produces and sells coating machinery. Don’t you cannibalize yourself with that?
Only to a certain extent. We believe it’s important to provide the optimal solution to implant manufacturers. From a certain number of pieces, it is better if they run in a separate system, the coating itself. Instead of loosing customers, we prefer selling them high quality machines.
Is it worthwhile in this sector, to produce in Switzerland?
Of course we also suffer from the strong Swiss Franc and the skills shortage. In general, however, Switzerland is a very good location for innovative engineering services. We do business in a field where well-trained professionals are essential. Also, we are dependent on thinking ahead and being innovative. For example, we are trying to incorporate an antibacterial effect in the coating to prevent infection during the operation. Due to the excessive use of antibiotics more and more resistant germs emerge.
How did you get to Mägenwil?
I live with my family at the beautiful Lake of Halwil. When we were plannung to enlarge the company, Mägenwil provided the necessary support and land in the industrial zone. Within one year we had the authorization, built the building and moved in.
Have you already appointed a successor?
I am very lucky that one of my two sons is excited about our use of physics in medical technology. He is a materials engineer and expert in biomaterials, therefore an expert in both areas, thus ensuring continuity. He took over the operational management. For me, this is of course a great satisfaction.
Interview by Monique Ryser