Helmholtz gets three more start-ups off the ground

Their ideas fight complicated urinary tract infections, ensure sustainable natural resource exploration and supply, and answer previously unanswered questions concerning nephrology and gynecology: Three Helmholtz research projects are about to bring their findings to market. To help them do so, they will receive valuable support from the largest German research organization’s “Helmholtz Enterprise” funding program.

“Scientists at Helmholtz research many questions that are important to the well of our society. But in order to take their results to market respectively in an application, some start-up assistance is helpful,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. “That is why the Helmholtz Enterprise program is one of the ways we support our entrepreneurs.” This gives them the opportunity to apply their years of excellent research in practice. “In addition to this, they often create highly skilled jobs,” Wiestler continues. “That is why we are so pleased to once again be able to fund three highly promising spin-off-ideas. I wish the founders every success as they take the step of entering the market.”

Helmholtz Centers have generated a total of 199 spin-offs since 2005. About half of those spin-offs have come from Helmholtz Enterprise. Three spin-offs are now on the starting blocks: Myxobiotics from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Metaron Diagnostics from the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU), and TheiaX from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR). The total funding of almost half a million euros over the course of a year is comprised of about €330,000 from the Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund and further funding from the Centers, as well as management skills, mentoring measures and participation in an accelerator program.

Overview of the three funded projects:

Myxobiotics: A new active substance candidate for complicated urinary tract infections

The research team headed by Rolf Müller and Mark Brönstrup from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) is working closely with the industry partner Evotec, to analyze new active substance candidates from the cystobactamid family. Cystobactamids have the potential to provide empirical antibiotic therapy for complicated urinary tract and intraabdominal infections and are to be further optimized for this application. The cystobactamid active substance family inhibits the growth of a known bacterial enzyme (gyrase), but uses a mechanism that is resistance-breaking against the fluoroquinolones widely used in clinical application. The cooperation combines HZI expertise in the area of natural products with Evotec’s translational active substance research platform, the leading in the world in the area of antibiotics. The project is now transitioning to lead optimization and has received funding from sources that include the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The Myxobiotics Helmholtz Enterprise project, headed by Thomas Hesterkamp, is pursuing spin-off and risk capital financing with the mid-term goal of being able to nominate an advanced cystobactamid as a development candidate. More public funding is to be obtained to develop the active substance family. The Helmholtz Enterprise Plus module will be used to finance an experienced industrial consultant.

Total Helmholtz funding: €170,000. Point of contact: Thomas.Hesterkamp(at)helmholtz-hzi.de

Metaron Diagnostics : biomarkers for so far unsolved questions in nephrology and gynaecology

Human metabolism reflects processes of health and disease. There are specific biomarkers, which depict different stages of diseases - for example in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) or Endometriosis: CKD is one of the most common and severe complications of diabetes and hypertension. CKD increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and myocardial infarction, and end-stage renal disease is lethal unless treated by complex and expensive interventions like dialysis or kidney transplantation. Endometriosis, a chronic condition of unclear etiology characterized by the growth of endometrium outside the uterus, affects up to 10% of the women in the reproductive age. Endometriosis manifests by sometimes severe menstrual pain, infertility, and further complications like inflammation or even cancer.

Jerzy Adamski (Helmholtz Zentrum München), Klaus Weinberger (sAnalytiCo, Belfast, and UMIT, Hall), and their collaborators developed new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for unmet medical needs in nephrology and gynecology. The newly developed diagnostic tools are using the same technology platform, tandem mass spectrometry, to detect disease-specific metabolite patterns, and will support clinical decision-making in defined indications. For CKD, the biomarkers will allow a more practical and reliable selection of kidney transplantation donors, an accurate stratification of CKD patients into the best therapeutic regimens and, eventually, an early risk assessment for patients living with diabetes and hypertension. For endometriosis, the new test will shorten the time to a definitive diagnosis, avoid unnecessary invasive laparoscopies, support the treatment of infertility, and improve quality of life for patients.
Helmholtz Enterprise supports project Metaron with the first steps towards a spin-off preparing the biomarker assays for clinical validation and launch as in vitro diagnostic (IVD) kit products.

Total Helmholtz funding: €134,000. Point of contact: adamski(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de

TheiaX: Efficient and accurate mapping for a sustainable discovery and supply of raw materials

With an increasing demand for metals - needed for a green economy - the mining sector is facing a complex challenge. The sustainable supply of raw materials requires energy-efficient and socially acceptable procedures with a low environmental footprint. With over 6 years of experience gathered throughout international projects (research, R&D, industry, etc.), the department of Exploration Technology of the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF) as part of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), has successfully developed and demonstrated novel multi-source & multi-scale digital mapping and monitoring procedures. Technologies that will minimize both the impact on the environment as well as disturbances to the communities and, at the same time, improve existing solutions. Thanks to numerous proof-of-concepts, these capabilities are today fully operational and put directly into practice within the team lead by Richard Gloaguen. These state-of-the art developments have reached market readiness.

The Helmholtz Enterprise project "TheiaX" aims at bridging the need of the mining sector for rapid and accurate raw material characterization using innovative imaging sensors fitted to multiple platforms such as drones. Using the potential of artificial intelligence and computer vision, TheiaX’s core business will be providing a cost-efficient, rapid and non-invasive decision-making tool for the discovery and supply of raw materials. TheiaX provides these digital twins that serve as a reliable basis for structural and lithological mapping and environmental monitoring in order to minimize human impact in target areas. “We will provide adequate products that will improve worker’s safety, decrease environmental pressure, and provide a timely availability of key information to geologists and engineers to improve their decision making” says Robert Zimmermann, co-founder of TheiaX.

Total Helmholtz funding: €170,000. Point of contact: r.gloaguen(at)hzdr.de

Helmholtz contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science, and the economy through top-level scientific achievements in six Research Fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Matter, and Aeronautics, Space, and Transport. With more than 42,000 employees at 19 Research Centers and an annual budget of around 5 billion euros, Helmholtz is the largest scientific organization in Germany. Its work is rooted in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).

November 26, 2019


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