Using biochips to analyse cell networks and test active substances

GO-Bio 3 – Philipp Julian Köster – Department of Biophysics, University of Rostock


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Recipient: University of Rostock
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (15.05.2010 - 31.01.2016, 3.218.707 Euro)


Electrical charge plays an important role in the human body. Nerve cells as well as cardiac and retinal cells all make use of electrical signals. These are involved in the regulation of mechanisms that influence, among other factors, the exchange of materials between cells. Today, it is known that these mechanisms must be taken into consideration in the development of new drugs, as they can influence effectiveness as well as be responsible for side effects.

In the first GO-Bio funding period, Philipp Köster and his team pursued a new approach for drug testing in the pharmaceutical industry. This comprised an innovative chip system that is based on ‘patch-clamp technology’. Here, small pipette-like silicon needle-electrodes measure the electrical currents of cells that are growing on surfaces and in the process of networking into groups of cells. These types of electrophysiological studies are relevant not only for basic research but also for drug developers.

The special feature is the ability, for the first time, to analyse the ion channels of cell networks. This is thanks to a technology that goes by the name of ‘GridClamp’. This is of particular relevance for the analysis of active substances that are intended for use in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In the first GO-Bio phase, Köster and his team successfully demonstrated the feasibility of their innovative test system. In the second phase, the team is planning to further develop the GridClamp system up to a working prototype, and to push forward the automation of the system. The founding of Poregenic Biosciences GmbH is envisaged for 2014. The developed in-vitro test system is oriented towards contract research organisations as well as clients in the pharmaceutical industry and in academic research.