Helmholtz funds three research projects on their way to marketability

Germany’s largest research organization hopes its Helmholtz Validation Fund will build bridges: Support from the fund contributes to developing scientific insights into marketable applications. Three new projects have now been selected and will be funded until 2022 with a total of 1.8 million euros.

“We want to encourage our scientists to refine the results of their work until they are ready to market,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. “That is an important part of our mission. It is equally important to us that this funding narrows the gap between publicly funded research and private investment.” Almost 30 million euros will be available from the President’s Initiative and Networking Fund for validation projects until 2020. In addition to this funding, the Helmholtz Centers and cooperation partners from industry intend to provide a similar sum to these innovative projects.

Since Validation Fund support began in 2011, a total of 41 projects, including the three that were selected this year, have received funding. The funding is research-topic-independent. “The three new projects we have selected once again show Helmholtz’s scientific range and the variety of its application-oriented research,” says Wiestler. “Our system expertise and interdisciplinary approach make us an indispensable partner for science and partners from industry.”

The three current funding projects are:

Recovering rare-earth elements

The GaLIophore project is aimed at recovering gallium (Ga) and indium (In) from semiconductor industry wastewater with low concentrations of those rare elements. The technology has so far been developed at laboratory scale and is now ready to be refined over a period of two years with around 370,000 euros in funding. During the validation project, an intermediate step is to increase output from 100 liters per day to a pilot scale of 2,000 liters per day. The plan is for a pilot plant with a handling capacity of 2,000 liters per day to be constructed and put into operation at a wafer producer’s premises. Once the technology has been successfully validated, it is to be expanded to industrial scale. The project will then be spun off and licenses awarded so that the procedure can be put to commercial use. Potential partners have already expressed their interest.

Point of contact: Dr. Rohan Jain, e-mail: r.jain(at)hzdr.de, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

Identifying medication intolerance

The immunX project, which will receive 600,000 euros for one year, is focused on testing active ingredients to determine whether they can trigger inflammatory reactions, and thus intolerance, when used for treatment. The project is to be expanded to create an innovative testing platform that will systematically reduce the risk of undesired reactions during active ingredient development and discovery. The platform is intended to facilitate the development of new medications and treatments. After successful validation, immunX will first be used as an internal DZNE service and marketed with non-exclusive licenses. The applicants are also considering a spin-off later on. External parties have already expressed interest in the project.

Point of contact: Dr. Eugenio Fava, e-mail: eugenio.fava(at)dzne.de, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)

Improving hepatitis C vaccination

The goal of the project, which will receive around 877,000 euros in funding over two years, is to perform the critical pre-clinical trials and production steps for a new additive called bis-(3’,5’)-cyclic dimeric adenosine monophosphate (c-di-AMP) for a hepatitis C virus vaccination. Its application as an adjuvant will then be validated and refined in a clinical Phase 1 study with the vaccine candidate. In animal study models, c-di-AMP has already induced enhanced cellular and hormonal immune responses. After successful validation, the plan is to license the adjuvant in conjunction with further clinical trials by the applicant.

Point of contact: Prof. Dr. Carlos Guzman, e-mail: CarlosAlberto.Guzman(at)helmholtz-hzi.de, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

June 12, 2019

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