IBT Lower Saxony: Lower Saxony's startup incubator for biomedical innovation gets rolling
First start-up idea gets a boost with 1.5 million euros
Yesterday, the official go-ahead was given for Lower Saxony's new lighthouse project. At the first public event of the Institute for Biomedical Translation (IBT) Lower Saxony, a top-class jury selected the pilot project of the initiative, which will receive funding of 1.5 million euros: Researchers at the University Medical Center Göttingen will be supported in the fight against chronic kidney diseases. A total of 25 million euros will be available to the IBT Lower Saxony for the next five years to accelerate the transfer of cutting-edge research in the life sciences in Lower Saxony and to bring it to the world in the form of start-ups and entrepreneurial ideas. The founding institutions of the IBT are the Hannover Medical School (MHH), the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig.
Two projects each from the Hannover Medical School (MHH), the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig presented their promising ideas with prospects for scaling and commercialisation at today's event. Prof Dr Michael Zeisberg, Dr Liat Hayardeny-Brück, Prof Dr Lutz Ackermann and their team can now rejoice as winners: The RevOFib project of the University Medical Center Göttingen brings together excellence from medicine, chemistry and drug development and has developed a portfolio of anti-fibrotic approaches that are in multiple stages of development. This gives RevOFib a perspective of rapid further development and spin-off for the benefit of millions of patients with chronic kidney disease.
The six projects presented cover a wide range of biomedical innovations in the fields of gene therapy, immunology, infection research, neuroscience, drug development and cell biology. A high-calibre jury with leading representatives from research and industry, including Prof Dr Klaus Cichutek (President, Paul Ehrlich Institute), Dr Matthias Evers (Chief Business Officer, Evotec), Prof Dr Christoph Huber (Co-Founder and Supervisory Board Member, BioNtech) and Prof Dr Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff (Supervisory Board Member, AiCuris Anti-infective Cures) selected the winning project.
The IBT pilot project will receive funding of 1.5 million euros for a period of two years. In the first phase of the IBT's funding, scientific and market-oriented further development will take place quickly so that a research idea can be turned into a business idea and, with a well-founded business plan, a company can be founded promptly. After that, the focus is on starting up the business and on facilitating further external financing.
After the first successful event, the IBT is already looking ahead: The next Startup Ideas Event will take place on 16 November 2023, and further information on the call for proposals will be published on the initiative's website in August.
"The life sciences and biomedicine are among the most promising disciplines for the future. Today we are starting a joint journey into the future and are all looking forward to the pilot phase of the IBT Lower Saxony. It will be able to build on the strong research of its founding members and benefit from their experience in exploitation and spin-offs" - said Prof Joachim Schachtner, State Secretary in Lower Saxony's Ministry of Science and Culture at the launch.
"The IBT Lower Saxony is a good idea that comes at the right time. It will be a place of intensive cooperation where experienced scientists, innovative young scientists, industrial partners and venture capitalists come together - and where projects can be launched quickly, pragmatically and unbureaucratically," said Prof Dr Thomas Sommer, designated managing director of IBT Lower Saxony.
ABOUT THE IBT LOWER SAXONY
Lower Saxony is one of Germany's leading locations for biomedical research. Despite the state's internationally recognised research strength, however, the knowledge gained still finds its way into medical application too rarely or too slowly. This is why the IBT Lower Saxony was launched as a lighthouse project of the state of Lower Saxony in 2022. It supports the founding of new start-ups in the field of biomedical research, attracts successful companies and investors, and strengthens the regional economy and makes it internationally visible. The IBT Lower Saxony creates a fast track for biomedicine in the Hannover-Braunschweig-Göttingen metropolitan region: Innovative ideas not only receive attractive financing options in the IBT, but also access to the entire first-class infrastructure and expertise of our shared ecosystem. The core objective is to transfer research results into new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as quickly as possible. The cooperation was initiated by three leading scientific institutions in the region: The founding partners are Hannover Medical School, Göttingen University Medical Center and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig. Start-up funding of 25 million euros for the first five years is provided by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture and the Volkswagen Foundation.
For more information about the IBT Lower Saxony, please visit the website.
OVERVIEW OF THE FINALISTS
Bacta Implants (MHH): Bacta Implants develops implants for long-term local drug therapy. The implants are specially manufactured for the individual patient anatomy and are elastic so that they can be inserted into small, unyielding niches, among other things. Currently, the focus is on round window niche implants that deliver active substances directly into the inner ear to effectively cure hearing loss.
DeKox (HZI): Infections with hospital germs, especially those caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are one of the greatest health threats worldwide. Since the human microbiota is a reservoir for these bacteria, we have developed an innovative probiotic approach to prevent infections before they occur. As part of our project, a team of scientists, clinicians and technology transfer experts are working to advance the development of our product candidate for removing antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the gut to validation in a clinical trial with patients.
DesignerMAC (MHH): Due to a lack of alternatives, current drug development still relies either on the use of animals or on human blood cell donors that cannot be standardised, which hinders modern healthcare applications and overall ingenuity in drug identification and safety. To solve these problems, we use unique stem cells to make and use superior immune cells (e.g. macrophages). Without the need for human donors or animals, our production pipeline enables the production of highly standardised immune cell products that significantly contribute to the discovery and testing of new drugs or to drug safety.
GeneSwitch (UMG): Gene therapy holds immense potential for new ways to treat genetic and acquired diseases. By introducing functional genes into a patient's cells, the underlying cause of disease can be corrected rather than just treating the symptoms. Pharmacological control of gene therapy is crucial to ensure safety and efficacy. It allows precise regulation of gene expression, dosage adjustments and the ability to stop or reverse adverse effects.
RevOFib (UMG): One in 10 adults has chronic kidney disease that potentially leads to dialysis dependency. Fibrosis, a pathological scarring process, is the common pathomechanism leading to kidney failure and dialysis dependency, regardless of the underlying disease. Our team brings together excellence in medicine, chemistry and drug development and has developed a portfolio of anti-fibrotic approaches that are in multiple stages of development. As our lead candidate is a metabolite of a safe, generic drug, there is the prospect for rapid translation, for the benefit of millions of patients.
STALLTOX (HZI): Hospital-acquired pneumonia is often caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. For successful infection control, it is important to render harmless the toxin 'alpha-haemolysin' released by the bacterium. In the STALLTOX project, biologists, chemists and physicians from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and the Hannover Medical School are working together to bring the first small-molecule inhibitor against alpha-haemolysin into clinical trials. Among other things, specific biomarkers that enable targeted patient selection are being established for the project.