Protein envelopes as GPS system

Life Science Inkubator – Dr. Heiko Manninga – Neuway Pharma (Projekt VLP Technologie), LSI Bonn

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Beneficiary: Life Science Inkubator Bonn GmbH & Co. KG
Funding: 01.07.2009 bis 31.05.2012, 1.541.702 Euro


Project description

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one billion people worldwide suffer from disorders of the central nervous system. The most common forms include so-called neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but also brain tumours. Depending on the disease, the symptoms can range from impaired vision and paralysis to memory loss and dementia. Common therapy methods are only effective to a limited extent. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the causes of these very different diseases are insufficiently understood. On the other hand, the diseased body region is the brain, which is protected by a special mechanism, the blood-brain barrier. This prevents the passage of pathogens and toxins from the blood to the brain. However, this filter often does not distinguish between pollutants and healing agents, which makes the drug therapy of neuronal diseases difficult, if not impossible.

The scientists of the "VLP Technology" project have developed a "drug ferry" with the help of which active substances can be specifically transported into the brain via the bloodstream after administration. The Life Science Incubator project group succeeded in demonstrating the principle feasibility of this method ("Proof of Principle"): Studies on mice showed in particular that the new transport system is capable of overcoming the "blood-brain barrier" and therefore transporting drugs from the bloodstream into the brain. The first therapeutic goal is to treat a particularly aggressive form of the brain tumor (gliobastoma multiforme). Further fields of application are neurodegenerative diseases, in particular multiple sclerosis.

The process is based on artificially produced protein capsules, so-called "virus-like particles" (VLPs). These are spherical shells measuring only a millionth of a millimeter that can be specifically loaded with active substances. The proteins in the capsule have the function of a GPS system: they find the target cells and deliver their active substances to them.

"VLP Technology", a research project of the Bonn Life Science Incubator, has been supported by public and private funds since 2009. At the end of this phase, an independent company, Neuway Pharma GmbH, was founded to continue the development of the new "drug ferry" for therapeutic use.