Image of Plasmodium falciparum

GO-Bio initial funding for two natural product projects at the HZI

In the concept phase, scientists develop implementation strategies for metabolites from fungi and a new class of active substances against malaria

The transfer of research results into application is an important goal of the scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig. The GO-Bio initial programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is now funding two HZI projects for a one-year concept phase in which the application idea will be elaborated and an implementation strategy developed. A new class of active substances against the tropical disease malaria is to be developed in the ChloroMalaria project, led by Dr Walter Hofer and Dr Jennifer Herrmann from the department “Microbial Natural Products” at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS). The HIPS is a site of the HZI in cooperation with Saarland University. The BASIDIOMICS project, led by Dr Frank Surup and Prof Marc Stadler from the department “Microbial Drugs” at the HZI in Braunschweig, is developing a platform to make clinically and industrially relevant secondary substances from fungi accessible. Stadler is also a scientist in the research area “Novel Antibiotics” at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). The projects start on 01 October 2022.

The tropical disease malaria is responsible for up to half a million deaths annually. Children under the age of five are particularly at risk from the infection, which is caused by single-celled Plasmodium parasites, and about half of the world's population lives in malaria-affected areas. Due to increased resistance to standard therapies, new classes of drugs are urgently needed to treat malaria. To this end, ChloroMalaria is working on the development of chlorotonils, a class of natural compounds isolated for the first time from the soil bacterium Sorangium cellulosum. Researchers at HIPS have recently produced several chlorotonil derivatives that have improved solubility and stability properties and show activity against all blood stages of the malaria parasite. The GO-Bio initial funded concept phase of ChloroMalaria will evaluate the most suitable profile for a therapeutic product and a cost-effective manufacturing process.

Basidiomycota produce a wide variety of secondary metabolites, some of which are already used clinically as antibiotics and anticancer drugs, and industrially as dietary supplements. Other secondary metabolites from this division of fungi appear promising for the development of new therapeutics for immune, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. However, the fungal cultures grow rather slowly in bioreactors and are difficult to regulate. Prof Marc Stadler's department “Microbial Drugs” at the HZI has extensive experience in the fields of mycology, natural product chemistry and bioprocess development. With the help of this knowledge and the use of OMICS technologies, the BASIDIOMICS platform aims to make difficult-to-target secondary substances from fungi available in the future. As part of the GO-Bio funding, the HZI team will explore the outlook for commercial use of the platform, which can be used both as a service for external partners and for the further development of products from its own research.

About GO-Bio initial

With the GO-Bio initial funding measure, the BMBF supports the identification and development of early life science research approaches with recognisable innovation potential. The aim is to achieve a degree of maturity of the research results within the framework of the project that will enable them to be continued in other established funding programmes for validation, start-up and company cooperation funding, such as VIP+, EXIST-Forschungstransfer, KMU-innovativ or GO-Bio. The overarching goal is thus the seamless transfer of promising ideas into application.

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