Aminolipin protects the living and preserves the dead

4.5 million euros of GO-Bio funding for University Hospital Tübingen project to develop formaldehyde substitute

Aminolipin protects the living and preserves the dead

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Hirt, Institute of Clinical Anatomy and Cell Analysis, Tübingen University (Source: Manfred Mauz)

(Stuttgart/Tübingen/Berlin) – Professor Bernhard Hirt from University Hospital Tübingen’s Institute of Clinical Anatomy and Cell Analysis is one of the beneficiaries of the latest GO-Bio funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). He and his research team will be receiving 4.5 million euros over the next three years to take aminolipin to market maturity with a view to replacing highly toxic formaldehyde as a fixing and preservation agent for tissue and organs. The presentation took place last Wednesday at the German Biotechnology Days in Berlin.

For over 100 years, pathologists, anatomists and undertakers have been using formaldehyde to preserve biological tissue and even entire bodies. The aldehyde methanal, as it is officially called in international scientific circles, is now known to be so toxic and carcinogenic, however, that some academic institutions‘ accident insurers no longer permit its use following the application of stricter thresholds. Preserving organs and bodies is sometimes essential, though, for example to provide future doctors with practical training. They study human anatomy and practice operations on bodies left to medical science. These corpses need to look and feel as similar as possible to a live patient.

A team of chemists, biologists and doctors from University Hospital Tübingen’s Institute of Clinical Anatomy and Cell Analysis has now developed and filed a patent application for a substitute. In all trials to date, it has demonstrated outstanding fixing and preserving properties for organs and tissue without being harmful to health. The project manager and Medical Director of the institute, Professor Bernhard Hirt, is therefore confident that this new substance will quickly replace formaldehyde in anatomical applications and for interments. „We synthesise aminolipin from near-natural substances. In several trials, it has been shown to inhibit enzymes that are responsible for decomposition, exhibit a wide antimicrobial efficacy spectrum and be highly efficient in halting the process of putrefaction,“ he says.

Having won over the biotechnology funding initiative’s panel of experts, the project was selected to benefit from GO-Bio support. Secretary of State Dr. Georg Schütte from the BMBF congratulated the winners of the latest GO-Bio selection competition at the German Biotechnology Days on 18 and 19 April in Berlin. Over the next three years, the research teams will receive funding to further develop their ideas and turn them into commercial products and services.

The seven selection processes since the start of 2005 have provided – or are still providing – funding for a total of 50 teams. In the coming three years, the research team from Tübingen will be given 4.5 million euros to optimise the manufacturing process for aminolipin and demonstrate its effectiveness in the proof of concept. During this period, it is planned to found a start-up to market the substance.

As Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, Managing Director of BioRegio STERN Management GmbH, explains: „Scientific research produces numerous good ideas, but in the life sciences it takes a lot of time and money to turn these into a market-ready product. GO-Bio funding is targeted at the early phase of projects and most of the new companies founded to date are doing very well, so I’m already looking forward to another successful start-up in the STERN BioRegion.“

About BioRegio STERN Management GmbH:
BioRegio STERN Management GmbH promotes economic development in the life sciences industry, helping to strengthen the region as a business location by supporting innovations and start-up companies in the public interest. It is the main point of contact for company founders and entrepreneurs in the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regions, including the cities of Tübingen and Reutlingen.
The STERN BioRegion is one of the largest and most successful bioregions in Germany. Its unique selling points include a mix of biotech and medtech companies that is outstanding in Germany and regional clusters in the fields of automation technology and mechanical engineering.

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