Protein Biomarker Unit

Protein Biomarker Unit
© Fraunhofer IZI

The Protein Biomarker Unit focuses on the identification and validation of proteins to be used as diagnostic biomarkers or representing therapeutic targets. Moreover, the unit aims at the development of single and multiplex assays for their detection. Multi-omics strategies (especially LC-MS based proteomics) are applied for identification. ELISA, western blot, and peptide or bead arrays (Luminex) are utilized for validation. High-affinity monoclonal antibodies, which are usually developed in the group, are key tools for these immunochemical assays.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Kalkhof also holds the research professorship for the master degree program Bioanalytics at the Coburg University for applied science and arts. This synergy enables the identification and characterization of relevant biomarkers by mass spectrometry, which are then validated in the Department of Therapy Validation using antibody-based techniques and prepared for clinical application.

LowAllergen / FoodAllergen – Detection of plant-derived allergenic protein structures with subsequent modification and testing for the successful reduction of allergenic potential through analytical methods

The frequency of newly developed food allergies (incidence) is increasing worldwide. At the same time, a rise in non-conventional food ingredients – particularly plant-based ingredients – has been registered, following the modern trend of resource-conscious food. This trend has also been noted by European directives with the purpose of making consumers aware of the risk of allergies as well as protecting them from the consequences of allergies (LMIV). As a result, the demand for reliable methods to analyze allergenic ingredients as well as for the technology to reduce allergenic ingredients has grown significantly over the past few years.

The "LowAllergen" project and its follow-up project, "FoodAllergen", are concerned with plant-based allergenic food ingredients. One part of the project is geared towards changing proteins to the extent that their allergenic potential is decreased. The requirements for this are innovative technologies for modifying proteins which are developed in our partner institute Fraunhofer IVV. As part of the “Food Allergen” project, the Protein Biomarker Unit is responsible for developing antibody-based test systems which enable a quantitative analysis of allergenic ingredients and reveal any remaining allergenic potential after applying allergen-reducing procedures. Using soy as an example, in the "LowAllergen" project, a decrease of allergenic components could be observed as a result of applying certain microorganisms in fermentation processes and hydrolysis using high pressure. In the "FoodAllergen" project, the processes and analytical methods will be expanded to other plant-based protein ingredients to implement technologies for modifying allergens as well as analytical methods for detecting successful reduction of allergens as soon as possible.

Project manager
Dr. Elke Ueberham

Development of diagnostic assays for detection of biomarkers in milk and blood for health control in dairy herds

In the field of ‘Biomarker-based veterinary diagnostics’ specific and sensitive diagnostic techniques based on immunological biomarkers are going to be developed for cattle. Screening tests verifying biomarkers are particularly appropriate to detect sick animals within the herds prior the occurrence of clinical symptoms. Positively diagnosed animals could supply veterinary examination in a targeting manner. Potentially, this approach could result in a medium-term increase in economic efficiency. Because animals’ health and well-being are closely related the development of biomarker tests contributes considerably to the principles of animals’ and consumers’ welfare.

In the project ‚On-Farm-Recording_Breeding‘ supported by the (former) Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, the Department of Therapy Validation has identified and characterized different biomarkers for health monitoring in cattle. A patent application submitted in 2015 is aimed at an international patent protection. The best performing biomarker candidates are currently under pre-commercial development at different stages. The final steps to reach marketability will be done in close collaboration with our industrial partners. A substantial benefit for the optimal diagnostic value is expected from the combined detection of biomarker through multiplex analysis. Together with partners in veterinary medicine, livestock breeding farms, and diagnostics industries we aim at the development of user-friendly products that will be well-accepted by farmers. Moreover, we seek to offer innovative product concepts that will suit the needs of a future-compliant agriculture.

The diagnostic assay for the detection of haptoglobin, a major acute-phase protein in cattle, is currently at the last stage of pre-commercial development, i.e. clinical validation. For the development of diagnostic assays for further interesting biomarker candidates we are searching for granting opportunities.

Project manager
Dr. Anke Hoffmann, Dr. Jörg Lehmann

Completed projects

  • Project "Bronchial Carcinoma" as part of the BMBF program "Innovative Regional Growth Cores", "GC Potential" module

Immunoreactivity, sensory and physicochemical properties of fermented soy protein isolate
Meinlschmidt P, Ueberham E, Lehmann J, Schweiggert-Weisz U, Eisner P.
Food Chemistry. 2016 Aug 15;205:229-38.
doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.03.016. Epub 2016 Mar 8.

Combination of two epitope identification techniques enables the rational design of soy allergen Gly m 4 mutant
Havenith H, Kern K, Rautenberger P, Spiegel H, Szardenings M, Ueberham E, Lehmann J, Buntru M, Vogel S, Treudler R, Fischer R, Schillberg S.
Biotechnol J. 2016 Dec 1,
doi: 10.1002/biot.201600441. [Epub ahead of print]


High pressure processing assisted enzymatic hydrolysis - an innovative approach for the reduction of soy immunoreactivity.
Meinlschmidt P, Brode V, Sevenich R, Ueberham E, Schweiggert-Weisz U, Lehmann J, Rauh D, Knorr D, Eisner P.
Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies 2016 July 1


Application of nonthermal technologies for the mitigation of soy immunoreactivity – pulsed ultraviolet light, -
irradiation, and nonthermal atmospheric plasma.
Meinlschmidt P, Ueberham E, Lehmann J, Reineke K, Schlüter O, Eisner P, Schweiggert-Weisz U, Knorr D.
Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies 2016


Increase of CD25 expression on bovine neutrophils correlates with disease severity in post-partum and early lactating dairy cows. 
Zoldan K, Moellmer T, Schneider J, Fueldner C, Knauer J, Lehmann J.
Dev Comp Immunol. 2014 Aug 11;47(2):254-263. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2014.08.002. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 25106916


Co-transplantation of human hematopoietic stem cells and human breast cancer cells in NSG mice: a novel approach to generate tumor cell specific human antibodies.
Wege AK, Schmidt M, Ueberham E, Ponnath M, Ortmann O, Brockhoff G, Lehmann J.
MAbs. 2014 Jul-Aug;6(4):968-77. doi: 10.4161/mabs.29111. Epub 2014 May 8.
PMID: 24870377


Identification and evaluation of novel synovial tissue biomarkers in rheumatoid arthritis by laser scanning cytometry.
Fueldner C, Mittag A, Knauer J, Biskop M, Hepp P, Scholz R, Wagner U, Sack U, Emmrich F, Tárnok A, Lehmann J.
Arthritis Res Ther. 2012 Jan 17;14(1):R8. doi: 10.1186/ar3682.
PMID: 22251373