Dr. Tino Töpper, Co-Founder and CEO of Bottmedical AG in an interview
Bottmedical is a Swiss deep-tech start-up with origins in the University of Basel. It was founded in May 2019 and is a tenant of the Tech Park Basel in Stücki Park.
The journey started in May 2013 when Dr. Tino Töpper and Dr. Bekim Osmani began their doctoral thesis as part of the nano.tera.ch initiative (a science initiative of the Swiss National Science Foundation). In September 2019, Bottmedical AG moved into Stücki Park and has since launched a great product on the market. Starting with the TOFI (tongue fitness trainer), Bottmedical won the Science Slam Trophy 2020 at the Swiss Medtech Day. Meanwhile, Bottmedical has been able to gain approval for the Naturaligner® – a biopolymer splint for tooth correction – and complete a clinical trial in collaboration with BaselDent. Since July 2022, patients can also improve their oral hygiene with CINNA® – a transparent antibacterial dental splint.
Bottmedical uses cellulose-based biopolymers for its products, which can be processed with natural plasticisers. The antibacterial active ingredients are also based on natural essential oils, e.g. cinnamon – hence the name CINNA. This provides a natural approach for dental therapies which are more compatible with the oral flora of the patient.
Tino Töpper, have you always been interested in oral hygiene?
As a physicist at the University of Basel, Dr. Bekim Osmani, co-founder of Bottmedical, and I researched artificial muscles for incontinence treatment. We worked in the field of biopolymers for four years. The groundings of knowledge for the ideas we have today were built there.
At an innovation event at the University of Basel, scientists were able to meet with users, including orthodontists and dentists. We held various discussions about where the technology of biopolymers could still be applied. It was noticeable that dentistry had great potential.
At that time, I was mainly motivated by the idea of how innovation can be driven forward outside of laboratories and the academic world. There are numerous scientific products that never make it out of the university.
When I became a dad for the second time, my wife became an organic activist. That has helped to make biopolymers increasingly interesting for me too in the professional environment. There is currently a general lack of biopolymer awareness in medical technology, as things are seen as “only having to work”.
With this motivation, I left university and founded Bottmedical with the vision of using only natural active ingredients for the products. This is how Naturaligner® came about.
What is Naturaligner®?
Naturaligner® are the first transparent braces which, with their cellulose-polymeric coated surface, form a natural surface to the lining of the mouth without any of the difficulties associated with plasticisers for patients. The patient would not notice a difference to conventional splints – it offers excellent transparency in combination with the CINNA® care solution for antibacterial protection.
What is CINNA®?
CINNA® is a transparent dental splint that is ‘charged’ with antibacterial agents on a biopolymer basis. Imagine holding a piece of paper and a piece of plastic under water. In the case of plastic, the water runs off, while the paper absorbs the water. The same thing happens with CINNA®. It absorbs the antibacterial agents. This creates an antibacterial effect which offers great potential in the areas of gingivitis or tooth decay prevention. You do not get this with conventional plastic splints.
What motivates you as CEO of Bottmedical?
Advancing the natural and preventive therapy approach is what motivates me and gives me a sense of enjoyment.
Seeing how we are growing and selling our products in Switzerland and Germany motivates me every single day.
What is your biggest success story?
That we were able to develop and market a product from the idea of using biopolymers in dentistry. We started with one or two people and were able to grow into a team of eight. During this growth phase, we had to constantly reinvent ourselves. As scientists, we became medical product experts, product designers – and then salespeople. None of us originally learned any of this. The whole team has grown with the new tasks, which has also been a challenge on a personal level and has really driven us on.
Which product is your focus at the moment?
The focus in sales is on both products. Since Bottmedical is dependent on dentists, we have to convince them of our products. That is why our research activities have been scaled down. In the pipeline for 2023 is ‘whitening’. The idea is that with the same dental splint, depending on the active ingredient, either the teeth are whitened or the decay is combated.
And finally, what makes the Tech Park Basel location in Stücki Park ideal for you?
There were a few locations that emerged as options. We made the decision to choose the Tech Park Basel because there are not only pharmaceutical start-ups there, but also some medtech companies, for instance start-ups in the medical technology sector. We really appreciate the short communication channels and the chance for informal exchanges in the corridors.