of Veterinary Medicine
RIEMSER is one of the largest pharma companies in Northeast Germany and exports to more than 80 other countries, including the U.S.A., China, and Russia. RIEMSER employs 600 people and produces over 300 human products which include things like pharmaceuticals against infectious, dermatological diseases (anti-infectives/dermatics) and cancer (oncologics). When RIEMSER became privatized in the ‘90s, the production process was reconstructed by obtaining new instruments, moving old equipment and documents to develop the museum on site, and giving more attention to details. RIEMSER prides themselves on being a successful medium-sized company with stringent focus on following Good Manufacturing and Good Laboratory Practices (GMPs and GLPs). Their numerous quality control parameters and automated equipment allows GMPs to be easily achieved. The laboratories use HCCP analyses and various other analyses like ELISA and electrophoresis procedures to maintain GLPs.
The founders of the museum at RIEMSER Arzneimittel AG are Professors Wittmann and Tesmer. Professor Wittmann was able to speak with us and give us a tour, along with Mrs. Franziska Hannemann, the public relations and marketing person. Professor Wittmann apologized to us for his “bad English” that was not all so bad, and explained that living in what was East Germany, he had few chances to use his English since communications with others were scarce. Later, when things changed, he began to meet with other officials and business peoples to globally collaborate. Though the only language they could speak together was English, since none of them were native speakers, it was rather broken. We toured the museum on site with the two of them and reviewed the history of FLI (where we had spent the previous two days) as well as of RIEMSER. Our time was spent viewing several rooms of historic documents and equipment that were open to our manipulation and closer examination.
The FLI began on October 10th, 1910 and Loeffler died in April of 1915. After World War I, in 1919, veterinarian Otto Waldmann, was asked to continue Loeffler’s work on the Isle of Riems toward a vaccine for foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD). Waldmann built cable cars to transport persons and things from the mainland to the isle (we were able to view the platform sitting just off shore from which the cars used to run to Insel Riems). In 1920, guinea pigs were discovered by Waldmann to be better and easier animal models to study FMD with. Today a stone monument to these guinea pigs exists at RIEMSER which we students were amused by and glad to see. A vaccine was produced and finally put to use in 1938 through 1940 to combat the epidemic in Germany. At the time, RIEMSER was part of the East Bloc and all research was dictated by communist USSR. After World War II, the Russians said “the research here is over” and Otto Waldmann moved to Argentina with his family. He could not continue research there due to insufficient resources. He died there and his family remained in Argentina. In 1950, German Democratic Republic (GDR) time, the RIEMSER FMD vaccine concentrate was yielded by Heinz Rohrer (appointed head of the Research Institute for Animal Diseases at Island of Riems in 1948) which decreased the dose for cattle dramatically. Obligatory immunizations of all cattle began in various European locations as a result.
In following years, RIEMSER continued FMD disease research as well as work on swine fever and other viral animal diseases and continued to expand. In the ‘70s and ‘80s many vaccines were brought to market, including for swine fever and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR)/infectious pustular vulvovaginitis (IPV). In 1990, FLI’s animal diseases production department was affiliated to RIEMSER. 1992, RIEMSER was privatized and new building developments continued throughout the 1990s to support the company’s growing needs.
CEO Dr. Mehler spoke with us after our tour about the current initiatives of RIEMSER. Over time, the company has shifted from animal vaccine production to mainly focus on human health needs. Last year the company produced 95% human products and 5% animal products. The three main human therapeutic areas for which products are made include oncology, dermatology, and anti-infectives. The company also produces a significant amount of dental products for surgical use, implantation, and bone regeneration. Some manufacturing occurs at this site, but the majority is at other locations. Dr. Mehler also spoke to us about the benefits of a mid-sized company and the difficulties in getting newly produced compounds to reach the market. We also learned about maternity leave in Germany, otherwise called “paternal leave”, as Mrs. Franziska Hannemann was about to begin hers. Mothers and fathers are allowed 12-14 months of 65% paid leave in Germany, quite a nice deal! They may also leave for up to 3 years, unpaid, and return to their previous jobs after that time.
After leaving RIEMSER, we had to leave wonderful Greifswald and head back to Berlin to finish our week of study. On the way, we stopped to take a short walk along a windy, grassy trail toward a church (Gristow protestant church) to admire the Baltic Sea views and the charm of the surrounding scenery. After a bit more driving we stopped at a beach town called Zinnowitz on Insel Usedom for a few hours. We stuck our feet in the freezing Baltic Sea and just hung around in the sand or did some shopping and snacking. It was a truly relaxing and fun afternoon. Then it was back in the car and onward to Berlin where we settled in for the night after dinner.
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