The morning began with a very warm welcome by the executive personnel and presenters at Riemser Pharma GmbH. Our first speaker, Professor Wolfgang Wittmann, shared a rare historical account on Friedrich Loeffler, Isle of Riems, and the establishment of the Friedrich Loeffler institute (FLI). Although Professor Wittmann was reported to have a dental emergency that very same morning, he still remarkably maintained his appointment with us, a testament to the dedication and generosity of our many presenters.
Friedrich Loeffler was born in 1952, and his career aspiration was to study medicine. However, his ambitions were postponed by joining the Army during the Franco-Prussian War. Following the war, Loeffler commenced his medical studies in Berlin where he also worked with Robert Koch. Later, as a scholar of Robert Koch, Loeffler founded the Institute of Hygiene in Greifswald. Loffler was also appointed by the Prussian Ministry of Agriculture to conduct research on Foot and Mouth Disease, including identifying its etiologic agent and vaccine development. In 1898, Friedrich Loeffler and Paul Frosch described that the causative agent was filterable, corpuscular, and capable of replication. Based on this groundbreaking discovery, Loeffler earned his name as one of the founders of virology. His extensive research continued in Greifswald, however, concurrent FMD outbreaks were also increasingly reported in the vicinity. These outbreaks lead to the authorities’ request that Loeffler find a new location for his experiments. Loeffler’s solution recommended an island location, thereby suggesting the Isle of Riems. Thus, in 1910, the institute on the Isle of Riems was founded. In 1913, Friedrich Loeffler was assigned as director of the Robert Koch-Institute, shifting more of his research activities to Berlin. Research completely stopped at Riems during World War I, and Loeffler passed away in 1915. After the war’s end, veterinarian Otto Waldmann was commissioned in 1919 to continue Loeffler’s work on the Isle of Riems. In 1938, Otto Waldmann and Karl Köbe presented a FMD vaccine, which was used in the outbreak years of 1938 – 1940. Over the next 100 years, the institute endured many changes, shifting from research to mainly vaccine production and back to research again. In 1952, the institute was renamed as the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) in honor of Loeffler’s 100th birthday. Today, FLI is a federal research institute dedicated to animal health, consisting of 11 institutes at 5 sites. FLI incorporates the entire spectrum of animal health ranging from epidemiology, novel and emerging infectious diseases to molecular virology and cell biology to welfare, nutrition, and husbandry.
Concluding his talk, Professor Wittmann shared with us a rare, turn of the century painting completed by a talented artist with the surname Zläger. This unique painting depicted the beautiful, scenic countryside on the Isle of Riem prior to 1910.
Our second presentation included a very informative introduction, history, and product overview of Riemser Pharma GmbH. Formerly Riemser Arzneimittel GmbH, the company was founded by the Braun family in 1991. Now owned by Ardian private equity firm, the headquarters is located in Greifswald. The company’s focus includes sales, marketing, and life cycle management (including phase IV post-marketing surveillance studies) of specialty therapeutic pharmaceuticals in niche markets. Their product portfolio encompasses areas of oncology, hematology, stem cell transplantation, anti-infective agents, neurology, and dermatology. The company’s history has been divided into several phases including mergers and major acquisitions of more than 200 products, consolidation and initiation of strategic growth, divestments of dental and animal health portfolios, and a recent acquisition of Keocyt along with other medical specialty products. Today, they are a midsized, specialty pharmaceutical company targeting European markets, but their products are distributed worldwide.
Immediately following our presentations, Riemser Pharma GmbH graciously provided lunch and refreshments, while allowing ample time for questions and networking. We also paid tribute to the statue of three guinea pigs located just outside of the building. This statue serves as a commemoration to all animals, including guinea pigs, whose lives have contributed to saving other animals and humans worldwide.
Shortly thereafter, we departed for the charming, historic Baltic Sea harbor town of Wismar. This picturesque, 13th century town boasted of elegant architecture, timeless cobblestone roads, the impressive Marienkirche, Wasserkunst fountain, and numerous quaint shops and café’s surrounding the market’s square. In just over an hour’s time, we beheld magnificent buildings, explored the city streets, shopped for Baltic amber, and indulged in several irresistibly fresh baked goods from a corner Bäckerei.
The second leg of our journey included a several hour drive return to Hannover. The afternoon’s traffic slowed our progression, which was a direct result of the approaching Ascension and Father’s Day holiday. Upon arrival into Hannover, we settled into our new hotel, conveniently located only five minutes walk from the Hannover Hauptbahnhof and downtown shopping. Our evening ended with a delightful dinner at the Pindopp Bier Café, known for their savory pizzas. Dr. Krischek, our speaker for Friday’s forthcoming lecture also accompanied us, bringing our remarkable day to a splendid close.