The Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany that brings together 18 scientific-technical and biological-medical research centres, is funding a new Helmholtz Zentrum München spin-off with roughly 115,000 euros. The focus is on a platform technology from Prof. Dr. Reinhard Zeidler, researcher in the Gene Vectors Research Unit (AGV). The technology involves a new method to produce antibodies for diagnostics and therapy.
Monoclonal antibodies have proven their usefulness for treating various diseases in oncology. If they bind to cancer cells, signals are transmitted that ultimately lead to controlled cell death. Antibodies are also quite commonly used in diagnostics. Conventional immunization technologies sometimes fail to produce the right antibodies. Many therapeutically useable target structures, the antigens, are also still unknown.
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Zeidler, head of the “Prevention and Immunomodulation” research group in the “Gene Vectors Research Unit” at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, and his colleagues works with extracellular vesicles, which are small bubbles that automatically pinch themselves off from both healthy and cancerous cells. Found in the patient’s blood, they consist of a membrane and contain all immunologically important information. The method has a number of advantages over classic production with soluble proteins. Vesicles contain almost all cellular proteins in a normal environment. They do not change their spatial structure and consequently they result in especially powerful antibodies. At the same time, it is possible to develop antibodies against previously unknown antigens.
Working with his colleagues, Zeidler has already succeeded in demonstrating the potential that his method offers. A first antibody targeted against malignant brain tumors (Glioblastoma multiforme) will soon be examined in a phase 1 trial on patients. Additional antibodies with diagnostic or therapeutic potential are already in the pipeline. The team headed by Prof. Reinhard Zeidler and Dr. Kathrin Gärtner will receive a total of 115,000 euros over one year.
Helmholtz Zentrum München is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. It investigates important common diseases which develop from the interaction of lifestyle, environmental factors and personal genetic background, focusing particularly on diabetes mellitus, allergies and chronic lung diseases.