Algae slicks and sugar-based vaccines: Biotech in Adlershof

03. May 2018

Algae slicks and sugar-based vaccines: Biotech in Adlershof

JPT Peptide Technologies

The JPT Peptide Technologies team is examining ways to use peptides in personalised immunotherapy

Germany is currently experiencing a biotechnology boom. The Science and Technology Adlershof boasts seventy biotechnology companies with over 800 employees. Their skillsets range from fundamental research to ready-to-use products and technologies.

Heidrun Terytze, head of the Adlershof-based Centre for Biotechnology and the Environment, explains: “White biotechnology refers to industrial applications, red for medicine and green for agriculture. We have companies of all colours. This creates unique opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation.”

The development of new drugs and diagnostics procedures is unthinkable without biotechnology. Examples include JPT Peptide Technologies, Vaxxilon Deutschland and diamond inventics. They are active in red biotechnology. diamond inventics has developed a “pocket-sized laboratory”. Their chip system can detect pathogenic microorganisms in water samples directly on-site and in real time. Vaxxilon is researching protection against pathogens that is as safe as it is sweet: the company develops sugar-based vaccines. “We are currently making progress in developing semi-synthetic as well as fully synthetic carbohydrate vaccines,” says Tom Monroe, the CEO of Vaxxilon AG. This is important because of the bacteria’s cellular envelopes, which consist of carbohydrates, particularly sugars. If we can produce these carbohydrates synthetically, it is not necessary to produce pathogens and to isolate those substances from their cellular envelope.

The company JPT Peptide Technologies takes over when it comes to testing the effects of vaccines once they have been fully developed. It is specialised on peptides. These are protein fragments, which can be artificially created from amino acids. Clustered on biochips, they help to analyse active ingredients.

The Adlershof-based team is working together with several partners and customers to examine ways to use peptides in personalised immunotherapy. Peptide vaccines, cell-based procedures, adoptive cell transfer and the use of peptide-pulsed dendritic cells are among the procedures that currently are being evaluated. CEO Holger Wenschuh: “The common denominator of these individualised therapy concepts is that they all require JPT’s custom-made peptides for developing treatment concepts as well as monitoring treatment success. We are working together with leading international pharmaceutical and biotech companies and we are planning to move into our own building in Adlershof.”

The companies Biopract GmbH and the Research Institute for Baker's Yeast represent the field of white biotechnology in Adlershof. In the latter case, the name says it all: the institute works on continuously analysing and optimising the quintessential agent of the bakery trade. CEO Michael Quantz: “We just finished a project that showed that the yeast fermentation process can be steered using ethanol. Compared to established models of baker’s yeast production, this method leads to more process stability and it saves time.”

Biopract is all about enzymes: “Our aim is to help improve agricultural animal products and their ecobalance. With Biopract ABT GmbH, a new company we just launched, we supply producers of agricultural biogas with enzyme-based process accelerators and thus contribute to improving the energy cost balance of renewable energies,” says Biopract CEO Matthias Gerhardt.

Solaga is a very young Adlershof-based company that represents green biotechnology. Founder and CEO Benjamin Herzog: “We are currently developing devices that contain algae slick, which is capable of recycling the air in enclosed spaces as well as whole cities. The algae remove nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, particulates and sulphur dioxide from the air. A box as small as an average picture frame is sufficient to clean stale office air. In a street context, they would have to be the size of a mural painting to balance the air pollution from, for example, diesel cars.

Herzog and his business partner Bauerfeind are working on projects that go even further. Algae could become suppliers of alternative energy. They produce organic substances that can be used to harvest biogas. Biogas is combustible which can be used for heating. By virtue of this method, entire neighbourhoods could use multi-modules to produce their own energy. The key advantage compared to solar energy is: gas can be stored more easily than electricity.

Using microorganisms as molecular power plants is an incredible idea because it does not require monocultural fields that have to be fermented or chemically transformed. Moreover, biogas can be produced and stored locally, making energy-intensive transport obsolete.

By Kathrin Reisinger for Adlershof Journal


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