Researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) have developed prototypes and new techniques that will facilitate improvements in diagnosis and clinical treatment. The projects in question were supported by the BIH Medical Devices and Pharma Technology Transfer Fund.
The objective behind the fund is to more rapidly translate innovative findings into diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Projects in the past:
Treating cancer and Alzheimer’s more effectively with new active substances
In two projects, BIH researcher teams looked for new targeted treatments of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. During previous research, Prof. Erich Wanker discovered changes in the protein folding and aggregation process in Alzheimer’s disease. Now, his working group has used those discoveries to develop innovative assays for screening active substances for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. In this transfer project, the first active substances that had been discovered were chemically optimized and then characterized, for example with regard to brain penetration. The results obtained are now being used to perform additional pre-clinical analyses on aspects such as the active substance candidates’ structure-activity relationships. In the second project, Prof. Claus Scheidereit and his group worked on a cancer-fighting active substance that they hope will improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation therapies. These therapies activate certain cellular signal pathways, something which is undesirable in cancer treatment because it prevents the intended cell death outcome. In the project, additional active substance candidates were characterized that can selectively block these signal pathways. The results obtained will be incorporated into additional, extensive chemical optimization and will serve as a basis for later tests, including in vivo.
Innovative diagnostic methods for chronic cardiac muscle weakness
Two additional projects focused on diagnostic methods involving circular RNAs and autoantibodies. Circular RNAs are probably involved in processes such as the regulation of gene expression, so they could be used as diagnostic biomarkers in the detection of different diseases. In this project, headed by Prof. Nikolaus Rajewsky and Sebastian Memczak, extensive bioinformatics analyses were conducted in order to select circRNAs associated with disease. Probes were subsequently constructed for their detection. The development of an array prototype for detection of the circRNAs was started.
Autoantibodies are the cause of autoimmune diseases like idiopathic dilatative cardiomyopathy (IDC). IDC is a cardiac muscle condition whereby autoantibodies against a certain receptor are detectable in many patients. Prof. Lutz Schomburg was able to specifically identify these autoantibodies. The test can now be developed further and certified. Parallel to this, a point-of-care (POC) process is being developed with the aim of making it possible to detect these autoantibodies directly at hospital bedsides or in outpatient care.
Measuring blood pressure on a patient’s cheek
One project to receive support was the development of a prototype for measuring blood pressure in patients on whom conventional measuring systems cannot be used, for example patients who have been harmed by thalidomide, which is known primarily under the drug name “Contergan.” In Charité Berlin’s Biofluid Mechanics Lab, Dr. Ulrich Kertzscher’s team developed a non-invasive measuring technique for these patients – laboratory prototypes that enable treatment providers to measure blood pressure on a patient’s cheek. In cooperation with LB Engineering, the sample devices are being developed further in order to create a prototype of a device that will then be clinically tested in preparation for CE certification. Series manufacture of these novel blood pressure measuring devices is planned to begin in late 2016.