Karl Ludwig Wolters, Hubert Möhlmann & Hartmut Klocke

Blog Post Date: Tuesday 10 August 2021

Ludwig Wolters

25 May 1892 – 19 July 1974

It could be regarded as a dismissive statement: he was a “self-taught scientist”. However, contained in an obituary, it is more a sign of respect. The subject is Karl Ludwig Wolters, a veterinarian with PhD who was appointed Director of the Bakteriologisches Institut in Dessau in 1923. In the years that followed he formed it into one of the central research establishments for the control of epidemics and an important German producer of vaccines and serum.

Wolters was born on 25 May 1892, the son of the master baker Karl Wolters in Wolfenbüttel. In 1911 he began his studies at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, two years later he transferred to Berlin, was required to interrupt his studies to serve in the war and subsequently received his license to practice veterinary medicine in 1919. He completed his dissertation on methods of detecting indole, which in turn allowed the classification of bacteria.

Dr. med. vet. Karl Ludwig Wolters

In 1921 he began working at the animal health authority of the province of Prussia, a move that appeared to herald the beginning of a career as a civil servant monitoring the observance of laws and regulations. Important, but not research work. Wolters could have continued along this path in 1924 when he became Director of the Bakteriologisches Institut der Anhaltischen Kreise in Dessau, which had been founded by Friedrich Richter in 1921. Although it was required to finance itself, it was an official body, a veterinary investigation office with extended tasks.

However, the institute soon began to produce its own serums and vaccines. It grew under Wolters, with the Anhaltische Serum-Institut GmbH Dessau (ASID) founded in 1930 together with Herbert Hoffmann delivering vaccines and serums on a large scale. With his profits, he secured the financial basis for research.

One key partner for his research was Johanna Dehmel, a medical-technical assistant who was often the co-author of his papers. Together, they developed a tetanus vaccine that Wolters subsequently tested on himself by administering three potentially fatal doses of tetanus toxin. He also conducted research into diphtheria. He succeeded in unifying basic research, applied research and production under one roof at the ASID, establishing one of the most successful manufacturers of vaccines and serums in both human and veterinary medicine.

Shortly before the end of the second world war Wolters left Dessau, working as a country vet in Itzehoe before being appointed Managing Director of the ASID Serum Institut GmbH Neuherberg in Bavaria, in 1949. He died in Munich on 19 July 1974.

Hubert Möhlmann

30 March 1913 – 21 September 1991

Ob.vet.Rat Prof. Dr. sc. H. Möhlmann

The land is flat here, very flat, traversed by drainage canals. Anyone born in 1913 in Nortrup, 80 miles south-west of Bremen as the crow flies, as the seventh of ten children of a farming family, could never have imagined becoming a researcher, being made professor and becoming the head of a vaccine and serum manufacturer. However, this is precisely what Hubert Möhlmann achieved. On his parents’ farm there was unavoidable contact with agriculture and livestock rearing, which surely had a key influence on his decision to study at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover from 1932 to 1936. During his time as an assistant in the veterinary surgery he had already come into contact with foot and mouth disease.

Friedrich Loeffler

Discoverer of the FMD virus; source: wikipedia.org

The land is flat here, very flat, traversed by drainage canals. Anyone born in 1913 iAfter receiving his license to practice medicine in 1937 and two brief interim positions he moved to Marienwerder in East Prussia (now Kwidzyn), where he spent two years participating in a major research project into foot and mouth disease. The globally present animal disease was extensively found in Germany at that time. A vaccine was developed at the Staatlichen Forschungsanstalten, the first virological institute, which was founded in 1910 on the island of Riems renamed in 1950 after Friedrich Loeffler, who discovered the foot and mouth virus. Möhlmann went on to make his practical experience here the subject of his dissertation; “Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in the first 14 days after active immunization with Waldmann and Köbe vaccines”.

Electron micrograph of the foot-and-mouth disease virus.source: wikipedia.org/fbi laboratory

On the island of Riems the young researcher had attracted attention and was made an assistant in foot and mouth research in 1939. In the years that followed, now as acting head of vaccine production, he went on to develop a more precise means of diagnosing foot and mouth disease and to improve the process of vaccine manufacturing. He was appointed professor in 1944. He continued to dedicate himself to researching foot and mouth disease in particular, with the result that he and his team were awarded the National Prize 1st Class. The Riems-based researchers ensured that, from 1950, the east German animal stocks could receive an annual vaccination against foot and mouth disease. In 1954 Möhlmann also habilitated as professor with a paper on foot and mouth disease at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

One year previously he had been transferred to Dessau, where he became the founding director of the reorganized research institute for vaccines. In this position he not only dealt with administrative tasks, but also continued to undertake research himself.

One and a half decades later Möhlmann fell afoul of the shifting political situation, with scientific expertise and the success of his institute no longer suffice. In January 1973 the scientific heads of the institute were informed at a hastily convened meeting that he had been removed from his position as director. No explanation was given, Möhlmann, ill at the time, was given the news of his demotion at home. It was not until 1990 that he was rehabilitated by the Akademie der Landwirtschaftswissenschaften and presented with his emeritus document.

Möhlmann nonetheless retained close links to science – as a member of the Halle Leopoldina, an interdisciplinary academy of natural sciences. Hubert Möhlmann died on 21 September 1991.

German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina – National Academy of Sciences in Halle (Saale); source: wikipedia.org/rotesdiadem (edited)

Hartmut Klocke

1 May 1942 – 12 February 2020

The fall of the Wall and German reunification – as with other companies in eastern Germany, Impfstoffwerk Dessau-Tornau faced great turbulence in the post-1990 period. From July/August 1990 sales fell to 5 percent of the level of the previous year. There were numerous reasons for this: The vaccines approved in eastern Germany needed to pass through a new approval process, the enormous stocks of animals declined dramatically – and there was now competition from western Germany.

It was foxes that saved IDT. The company had a bait vaccine that rendered foxes immune from transmitting the potentially deadly disease of rabies to humans. Klocke Pharma-Service GmbH Appenweier also had such a vaccine in its portfolio. The company was and is part of the Klocke Group, which originated in Weingarten, Baden. In 1971 Hartmut Klocke took over the leadership of Klocke Verpackungs-Service GmbH from his father, forming the basis for the Klocke Group.

Hartmut Klocke was born on 1 May 1942 and grew up to join the business of providing packaging to the pharmaceuticals industry.

Shareholder Hartmut Klocke

1990 already saw the initial contact between Hartmut Klocke and IDT, which temporarily produced the rabies vaccine for Klocke Pharma-Service GmbH.

Despite the “unsavable” assessment of what was then Impfstoffwerk Dessau-Tornau by the Treuhandanstalt privatization agency, Hartmut Klocke was convinced that the firm had a future and in 1992 submitted an offer to the Treuhandanstalt to purchase it. The assessment of IDT had since been reversed. In addition, competitors also appeared interested, as the sales negotiations suddenly faltered. The case of IDT assumed political dimensions, there were protests from IDT, the press and even the Federal Chancellery became involved. With the supervisory board – initiated by Dr. Heinz Hofmann, managing director since mid-1990 – comprising members from western Germany and two representatives of the employees, working in collaboration with the management board of the time, it proved possible to avert the winding-up of the company.

Left: In 1994, a modern logistics center is built as a central warehouse complex
Right:1993 – The first summer party after privatization

One year after submitting the offer to buy the firm, Hartmut Klocke signed the contract of sale. IDT was successfully privatized. Looking back, he described the acquisition as “… a mighty step, one that was not without obstacles. The foundation stone is always the most difficult to lay. I put 100 percent on one horse, on IDT. And, working together, we achieved new successes year for year.”

In the years that followed the works became a major construction site. 1995 saw the beginning of building work for a new vaccine production facility; Klocke invested over 70 million euros. Completed in 1997, IDT was now in a position to manufacture vaccines to internationally recognized standards. With numerous further investments in the years that followed, the company developed into a key, globally active pharmaceutical contract developer and manufacturer of human vaccines.

When Hartmut Klocke died on 12 February 2020, the company now known as IDT Biologika was one of the largest employers in the state of Saxony-Anhalt.