Health

A faster and more precise diagnoses using molecular biological approaches or new opportunities for recovery through regenerative medicine and individualized therapy approaches – one example is the coordinated interplay between a ("biologized") implant and its physiological environment – are scientific trends that are becoming more important because of the increase in life expectancy. Hence, drug efficacy has to be improved, for example by optimizing formulations and targeted release of active ingredients at the sites where they are needed.

Fraunhofer IGB is developing solutions in these research areas. The aim is to improve medical care for patients and simultaneously reduce healthcare costs. Another focus is the development of three-dimensional in vitro organoid models derived from human tissues; preclinical research has already produced conclusions about effects and side effects of potential drug candidates and thus animal experiments are no longer required.

 

Networking and cooperation

With our expertise, we contribute to the offerings of the Fraunhofer Group for Life Sciences, facilitating a scope of activity ranging from the development of medicines to screening for active agents to the production of test samples. As a partner of the Fraunhofer Food Chain Management Alliance, we make a contribution to healthcare through the development of physical hygienization processes that protect the properties of products. In addition, we are networked in the Fraunhofer Big Data and Generative Manufacturing Alliances.

We take increased health awareness into account by using new extraction, preparation and stabilization processes that minimize damage to food products and can also be used for cosmetics.

Coatings and biomaterials for medical technology

Properties of the materials and interactions between the material and the biological system are key factors in the manufacture of implants and medical devices. Fraunhofer IGB is developing bioactive, biocompatible or bioinert materials for use in medicine and medical technology, e.g. for stents, catheters and implants. We are testing biocompatibility of the materials using an accredited testing method pursuant to DIN EN ISO 10993-5. For implants, we are investigating cell-material interactions and developing materials such as electrospun, biodegradable fibers or hydrogels that are developed further to bioinks for additive manufacturing of tissue models. In addition to biological carriers, Fraunhofer IGB is also developing miniaturized tubes as supply systems for larger tissue models.

Research focus and projects

Personalized medicine

In the field of personalized medicine, the focus is developing cell-based therapeutics, autologous transplants and biologized implants. Fraunhofer IGB and its Würzburg branch, with the Translational Center for “Regenerative Therapies for Oncology and Musculoskeletal Diseases”, are covering the entire value-added chain right up to GMP-compliant manufacturing of cell-based therapeutics and implants (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products, ATMPs) and – together with a network of physicians – phase I clinical studies. We are analyzing contaminations of implants using non-destructive techniques with spectroscopic and multiphoton microscopic methods. A new approach to producing dimensionally stable, tissue-like structures (e.g. cartilage, fat tissue) is being pursued by 3D printing of cells onto UV-crosslinkable hydrogels. For the development of patient- and disease-specific test systems, Fraunhofer IGB is working on iPS-based organ-on-a-chip systems.

Research focus and projects

Molecular diagnostics

Fraunhofer IGB is developing novel molecular biology technologies based on nucleic acids (microarrays, high-throughput DNA sequencing) or using cellular reporter systems (pyrogen assay system) that can be used for clear and unambiguous diagnoses. This information helps to initiate measures for specific treatments or develop personalized medicines for different population groups. In particular for combating infectious diseases, the combination of methods of functional genome analysis with our expertise in cell culture technology and infection biology results in a unique position for developing infection models and diagnostics. We have established a versatile, non-invasive, marker-free diagnostic tool based on Raman microspectroscopy for real-time analysis of cells and tissues.

Research focus and projects

Drug development

Using DNA-based technologies and human tissue models, we are elucidating host-pathogen interactions to identify new target structures for antibiotics and for boosting human immune defense. We are investigating potential active compounds using cell-based assays – e.g. for immunomodulatory substances – based structure-effect relationships.  To analyze the effects and side effects of potential active compounds, we are developing three-dimensional in vitro tissue models and organ-on-a-chip systems based on human primary or iPS cells to replace animal tests. In addition, we are developing processes to produce pharmaceutical proteins: from the establishment of new expression vectors to strain development and purification of the pharmaceuticals.

Research focus and projects

Formulations and release systems

Transport of a substance to their destination – e.g. a tissue or cell- is a key factor in the development of functional ingredients or active compounds. At Fraunhofer IGB, we are developing structures that transport substances to their site of action in a targeted manner (drug delivery) and release them there in a controlled manner (drug release). For example, we are formulating active compounds in a matrix consisting of bio-based, polymer or siliceous material in the form of (nano-)particles or layers. To achieve this, we are using various techniques such as spray technologies, solvent evaporation, emulsions or dispersions. Using virus-like particles as vehicles, we are persuing a new approach to packaging and targeted transport of active compounds.

Research focus and projects

Food and cosmetic

Our aim in this topic area is the extraction of functional ingredients from biogenic raw or residual materials, from intermediate products in agricultural and food production and from microalgae. For this purpose, we are developing  gentle-to-product and efficient procedures to extract (supercritical fluids, high-pressure in combination with pressure change technology) and purify the products using electrophoretic and mechanic separation processes. In addition, we are developing new physical processes to stabilize and conserve food, cosmetics, drug substances and plant extracts. Since this procedure is carried out at low temperatures below 50°C, the biological function of valuable ingredients, such as vitamins is not affected during the treatment.

Research focus and projects