Development of novel vaccines: Goethe University founding team receives federal funding

Two young chemists at Goethe University want to develop highly effective vaccines using the carrier protein dodecin. To develop their idea into a product, the young scientists are receiving funding from the GO-Bio initial programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The novel vaccines being developed by Alexander Rittner and Florian Bourdeaux at Goethe University should be highly effective and cost-efficient in production. (Credit: BaLL LunLa/ Shutterstock)

The development of vaccines is considered one of modern medicine’s greatest achievements, and currently represents the greatest hope in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic – as it was in the fight against polio, smallpox and measles. Thanks to the development of effective vaccines, these diseases are no longer a significant threat today.

The founding team from Goethe University, Dr. Alexander Rittner and Florian Bourdeaux (former PhD students under Professor Martin Grininger), have now succeeded in obtaining funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to develop novel vaccines for the market as part of the GO-Bio initial programme. The focus of their EpiXII project is the protein dodecin, which is to be used as an antigen carrier for vaccines. The founding team is supported by Goethe University’s technology transfer organisation, Innovectis, and the Unibator start-up center.

Traditional vaccines are based on dead or weakened (attenuated) pathogens that provoke an immune response in the body, which protects against later infections with the real pathogen. New types of vaccines, such as the peptide vaccines, only use individual proteins or even protein fragments of a pathogen for vaccination. This makes them very safe and expands their application to completely different areas such as allergy or cancer therapy. The crucial question, however, is how the information about the pathogen can enter the body of the vaccinated person and how a specific immune response is triggered.

This is where Rittner and Bourdeaux come in: they want to use dodecin as an antigen carrier to develop new vaccines that can be used across the board. The coupling of the specific peptide sequences to the carrier protein dodecin should lead to a very high immunogenicity and also drastically reduce production and storage costs. Dodecin carriers are to be established as an innovative platform for highly effective clinical vaccines. Other areas of application can be found in animal breeding, where they can create a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to the use of antibiotics.

The founding team is now taking the first steps from science into the world of entrepreneurs to bring dodecin vaccines onto the market. In the Unibator start-up centre, they have the opportunity to work on their business model and build a network of potential partners and investors. The approved funding will be used to create the legal, economic and scientific framework conditions for setting up a company to make the technology available as quickly as possible.

Publication: Bourdeaux, F.; Kopp, Y.; Lautenschläger, J.; Gößner, I.; Besir, H.; Vabulas, R. M.; Grininger, M. Dodecin as Carrier Protein for Immunizations and Bioengineering Applications. Scientific Reports 2020, 10 (1), 13297

Further information:
Dr. Alexander Rittner

Florian Bourdeaux

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