To success in microlitres

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Becoming the Head of Innovation one drop at a time

Alex Studer is a molecular biologist. Born and raised in Basel, he found his dream job – and his dream home – here in the Rhine Valley.

The story starts off small – with a pipette. For years, Alex Studer used pipettes while studying the causes of the hole in the ozone layer. He analysed samples in the laboratories of the Microbiological Institute at the ETH Zurich, carefully placing drops of various liquids on slides and examining them under a microscope. His years of research not only reaped fascinating results – Alex also got his PhD.


The Chief Innovator

Today, when Alex welcomes someone to the modern premises of INTEGRA Biosciences in Zizers, it is hard to imagine that, for years, he spent more time around bacteria than people. When we meet Alex, he isn’t wearing a lab coat – he walks us through the company building in a pink polo shirt, casual chinos and comfy trainers, saying hello to his colleagues as he looks for a vacant meeting room, punctuating his stories with enthusiastic gestures.

“I think a lot of people are still unaware of everything that is going on here.”

He still works with pipettes, though he rarely uses them himself nowadays. INTEGRA Biosciences is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of liquid transfer devices. State-of-the-art patented pipetting devices are produced in Zizers, and the US subsidiary in New Hampshire manufactures the related consumables that allow the user to work in a completely sterile manner. “The INTEGRA devices work like a kind of Nespresso system,” says Alex, taking a sip of coffee as if to emphasise the comparison. “The fact that we offer everything from a single source has helped to significantly improve quality.” Alex is responsible for the entire area of innovation – marketing, product management and research and development.

"Everything depends on the right people."

“The company is doing brilliantly,” says Alex proudly. “We have been able to consistently grow sales revenue by around 20 per cent per year over the last 10 years. This year it will probably be even more.” INTEGRA Biosciences employs around 570 people, a number that is steadily growing. The company has its own sales organisations in Switzerland, the US, Germany, France, England, China, Japan and Denmark. They are always on the lookout for talented engineers and people who understand how the market works. “Success rests on finding the right people.” The goal for the Rhine Valley, Alex says, should be to expand the pool of potential business partners and customers. “I think a lot of people are still unaware of everything that is going on here. They are interested in a certain company, and if it doesn’t work out with them, they don’t even realise that there are plenty of alternatives in the region.”


Coming home to nature

While the economic appeal of Graubünden still remains hidden to some, the advantages of living here are no secret. “I don’t want to go back to the city,” says Alex, who lives with his family in Maienfeld. “We have different needs now. We have the stunning Graubünden countryside right on our doorstep.


“There’s so much to do. In winter I take my children to the ski lift in the morning and pick them up again at noon.” His office in Zizers is only a five-minute drive from the slopes. For lunch, he quickly nips home whenever he has the time. “A lot of people do that here. It’s great to be able to eat lunch at home.” Alex’ wife is also very happy here, although she was a bit apprehensive when she first found out about the planned move. They were still living in Boston at the time, when the company was building up its US headquarters. After 17 years, Alex is now a partner in the company. He really has come a long way with his pipettes – one drop at a time.

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