Fraunhofer IZI research project nominated for "HUGO JUNKERS PRIZE for Research and Innovation from Saxony-Anhalt"
The Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI conducts research on neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases at its Halle (Saale) site. With their approach of using endogenous retroviruses as target structures for new therapies against neurological diseases, the scientists qualified for the finals of this year's HUGO JUNKERS AWARD in the category "Most Innovative Basic Research Projects".
The project of the Fraunhofer IZI Department of Drug Design and Target Validation was one of 19 selected from a total of 69 applications for the final round of the competition. On April 27, 2023, all nominees presented their ideas in person to the jury at the Leopoldina in Halle (Saale).
The Fraunhofer scientists' research topic was human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). Their envelope proteins in particular are suspected of being involved in neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia or Alzheimer's disease. It is not yet clear what function these factors have in detail. Cell damage and the misdirected stimulation of the immune system by HERV are assumed to be the disease mechanism.
In the joint research project with the University Medical Center Halle, Fraunhofer IZI researchers succeeded in characterizing the biological activity of HERV envelope proteins. These proteins also served as antigens for the generation of poly- and monoclonal antibodies. The project team investigated the biological effects of HERV envelope proteins in cell cultures and experimental animals and was able to characterize their immunostimulatory properties. With these findings, the researchers are paving the way for the development of new therapeutic methods to treat neurological diseases in particular. The approach is also suitable for the development of new therapies against tumor diseases.
The research project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The results have been published in various specialist journals:
Victoria Ilse, Rebekka Scholz, Michael Wermann, Marcel Naumann, Martin S. Staege, Steffen Roßner, Holger Cynis H. Immunogenicity of the Envelope Surface Unit of Human Endogenous Retrovirus K18 in Mice. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2022; 23(15):8330. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23158330
Victoria Gröger, Alexander Emmer, Martin S. Staege, Holger Cynis. Endogenous Retroviruses in Nervous System Disorders. Pharmaceuticals. 2021; 14(1):70. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph14010070
The award ceremony for this year's HUGO JUNKERS PRIZES is scheduled for June 7, 2023. At a festive event, Saxony-Anhalt's Minister of Science Prof. Dr. Armin Willingmann will announce and award the winners of the competition.
HUGO JUNKERS AWARD
The "HUGO JUNKERS PRIZE for Research and Innovation from Saxony-Anhalt" has been awarded by the state since 1998. It is currently awarded every two years and is endowed with 80,000 euros. The jury is currently chaired by Prof. Dr. Julia Arlinghaus, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF Magdeburg. In addition to the category "Most Innovative Projects in Basic Research", prizes were awarded to projects in the fields of "Most Innovative Projects in Applied Research" and "Most Innovative Products, Services and Business Models" as well as this year in the special category "Most Innovative Projects from the Field of Energy and Environmental Research".
Further information on the HUGO JUNKERS PRIZE (in German only)
Press release of the state of Saxony-Anhalt on the nomination for the final competition round 2023 (in German only)