Chromobodies: Luminous mini-antibodies for active substance screening

GO-Bio 2 – Dr. Ulrich Rothbauer – Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) | Chromotek GmbH, Martinsried

Stilisierte Darstellung eines Antikörpers

Markus Schnatmann - Fotolia

Recipient: Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.12.2007 - 31.12.2010, 1.425.578 Euro)

Recipient: ChromoTek GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (01.01.2011 - 30.06.2014, 1.914.696 Euro)


Antibody molecules are characterised by their ability to identify different structures with great accuracy. For decades, scientists in research and diagnostics have exploited this skill in the detection of specific biomolecules or structures inside cells or tissues. This involves the production of biotechnological antibodies, which are coupled with fluorescent dyes. However, these kinds of analyses typically provide only a snapshot of the situation. Biotechnological antibodies are too large and unstable to function properly in living cells, which makes it impossible to observe dynamic processes such as cell division. Here, an alternative is offered by the Chromobody technology developed by Ulrich Rothbauer.

Chromobodies are alpaca-derived antibody fragments that are fused with fluorescent molecules. They are up to ten times smaller than conventional antibodies and have a sufficiently high stability to be used in living cells. The concept was successfully developed for use in biomedical research and diagnostics within the scope of the first phase of GO-Bio project funding.

ChromoTek GmbH was founded in 2008 for the commercialisation of the technology. The company is now based at the Innovation and Start-Up Center for Biotechnology (IZB) in Martinsried near Munich. In the second phase of Go-Bio funding, the ChromoTek team is planning to validate and optimise the technology for use in drug screening in the pharmaceutical industry. Here, cell lines incorporated with Chromobodies are precision-adjusted during ‘high-content’ analyses that measure a large number of values ​​simultaneously and in real time. It is also planned to develop customised Chromobodies for specific target structures, which is likely to find application in target validation in the context of drug screening.

Progress during and after the funding period

After the discontinuation of the GO-Bio-promotion ChromoTek GmbH was able to establish itself as market leader in the development of nanobodies with modelable affinities, valences and specificities. ChromoTek´s Nanobody technologies are used worldwide in proteomics and imaging, providing users with reliable results in the shortest possible time. The latest product developments include the introduction of a new peptide tag nanobody system and a new form of high-resolution secondary antibodies called nano-secondaries.

In October 2020 High-Tech Gründerfonds and Bayern Kapital have sold their shares in ChromoTek after ten years and the US-American company Proteintech has acquired the Munich-based start-up.