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Next Steps for Nanopore Technology

The Clusters4Future action “nanodiag BW” is launching its first implementation phase with four funded projects

Freiburg, Apr 04, 2023

Next Steps for Nanopore Technology

Stylized illustration of a nanopore. Photo: nanodiag BW

The actors of the Clusters4Future “nanodiag BW” just received approval notices from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) totaling nearly 15 million euros. This means that the multidisciplinary innovation network headed by Hahn-Schickard (cluster spokesman Prof. Dr. Felix von Stetten) and the University of Freiburg (deputy cluster spokesman Prof. Dr. Jan C. Behrends) can begin its first three-year implementation phase. With the help of nanopore technologies, epigenetic factors influencing diseases will be detected and innovative products and services will be applied.

The “Bionanopore Analyser” project aims to develop a novel platform for the analysis of epigenetic mechanisms that will make a decisive contribution to medical diagnostics and prognostics of the future. To this end, the cluster brings together basic research in biophysics, electrophysiology, epigenetics, structural biology, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence (AI) with innovative microelectronics, microfluidics and bioanalytical sample preparation in the application focus of the analyzing protein modifications, especially for epigenetic tumor therapy. The project is led by Prof. Dr. Jan C. Behrends from the Institute of Physiology at the University of Freiburg together with Dr. Gerhard Baaken from Ionera GmbH. It is funded with approximately 5.4 million euros.

The overall goal of the “Solid-State Nanopore Analyzer” project is the industrial manufacturability of robust and flexible single molecule sensors. In doing so, it will be possible to both “recreate” the geometry and properties of naturally occurring nanopores using high-end technologies in a “biomimetic” approach and to systematically and specifically scale up this functionality. Materials science, micromechanics, nanostructuring and microelectronics contribute to this as well as AI-based data analysis. This will provide the technological basis for practical point-of-care diagnostic applications of next-generation single-molecule detection for the first time. The project is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Alfons Dehé from Hahn-Schickard together with Dr. Franz Lärmer from the Robert Bosch Research Center in Renningen. It is funded with approximately 5.4 million euros.

The aim of the project P3 “Digital Nanopore Sequencer” is to prepare the basis for the use of nanopore technology in the clinic. For this purpose, a so-called “interactome profiler” is being developed, which provides information about molecular interactions. Through a highly parallel arrangement of thousands of nanopores and a digital readout, the influence of disease-associated epigenetic factors such as methylation of DNA and the post-translational modifications of proteins will be quantified. In particular, novel epigenetic biomarkers for predicting patient response to immunological and epigenetic therapy in laryngeal and gastrointestinal tumors will be determined and evaluated for subsequent nanopore-based liquid biopsy diagnostics. The project is led by Professor Irina Nazarenko from the Medical Center - University of Freiburg, together with Dr. Peter Koltay from Actome GmbH. It is funded with approximately 2.7 million euros.

In the fourth project, BMBF-funded measures supporting innovation are set up for all partners of the cluster. These include updating the cluster strategy, providing analyses (competition, markets, IP landscape, etc.), sustainable competence and resource building, increasing the innovative capacity of the cluster players, e.g., by implementing an open innovation culture, and supporting the formation of value chains and start-ups from the cluster environment. Cluster manager Dr. Stephan Karmann is heading the project together with von Stetten. It has received approximately 1.5 million euros in funding.

In addition to the federal government, the state of Baden-Württemberg is the second major third-party funder for the Cluster4Future. Both the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Science have already approved funding for accompanying measures in the six-figure range for 2023.

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