University of Bayreuth, Press Release No. 136/2023 - 25 September 2023
EXIST funding for innovation in biomedicine
The project BioMagnetix aims to revolutionize the usage of magnetic nanoparticles in biomedicine. It has now received EXIST start-up funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.With a grant of approx. 150,000 Euros, first steps to commercialize the idea can now be taken from the laboratory at the University of Bayreuth towards the market.
BioMagnetix uses bacterial magnetic nanoparticles as innovative materials for biomedical applications. The founding team aims to develop and continuously improve high-quality and highly functional magnetic nanoparticles for imaging techniques and therapeutic purposes, such as cancer treatment. Starting September 1st, 2023, the team, which emerged from the Chair of Microbiology at the University of Bayreuth, will receive an EXIST grant of approx. 150,000 Euros in total over the course of twelve months. With this funding, the researchers now want to take the first steps towards commercialization.
The scientific principles of BioMagnetix are based on the research of Prof. Dr. Dirk Schüler, head of the Chair of Microbiology at the University of Bayreuth. Schüler established the magnetotactic bacterium Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense as a model organism for magnetic bacteria and as a production strain for bacterial magnetic nanoparticles (so-called magnetosomes). In particular, the scientific breakthroughs achieved in recent years form the prerequisites for the project. Dr. Frank Mickoleit and Dr. Marina Dziuba, researchers at the Chair of Microbiology, now aim at using magnetosomes for various applications in (bio)medicine. The enormous potential of these magnetosomes might revolutionize the current usage of magnetic nanoparticles in the biomedical context.
The magnetic nanoparticles developed by BioMagnetix are naturally produced by bacteria, thereby enabling a sustainable and environmentally friendly production - in contrast to chemically synthesized nanoparticles, whose production often requires toxic substances and extreme reaction conditions. Furthermore, magnetosomes are enveloped by a biological membrane, which prevents agglomeration thereby ensuring the stability of the nanoparticles - one of the prerequisites for (bio)medical applications. As the bacteria can be genetically manipulated, high-quality magnetic nanoparticles can be tailored to the envisioned applications. This includes fine-tuning of the magnetic properties, as well as the display of additional functionalities (e.g. biocatalysts, or coupling groups for the detection of tumor cells).
The achievements of BioMagnetix so far are remarkable: after refining the genetic tuning of the nanoparticles and optimizing the cultivation conditions of the bacteria for improved magnetosome synthesis, the researchers are already taking the first steps towards particle mass production. Magnetosomes are proposed for several potential applications in medical diagnostics and therapy. For instance, magnetosomes can be used as highly efficient contrast agents for magnetic imaging, and they enable a targeted treatment of cancer cells through magnetic hyperthermia (heating of tumors in the presence of a magnetic field). In addition, the particles are suitable for the targeted delivery of drugs, which can be released at their destination sites in a magnetically controlled manner. The "toolkit" established by the EXIST team for the generation of customized magnetosomes also enables a wide range of applications in research, e.g. in molecular biology.
Next Step Start Up
With the support of their colleagues Sven Binder and Dr. Mauricio Toro-Nahuelpan, who contribute their expertise in business economics, and the guidance of their scientific mentors, Prof. Dr. Dirk Schüler and Prof. Dr. René Uebe, Mickoleit and Dziuba are driven by the immense potential of their application-oriented research to commercialize bacterial magnetic nanoparticles. "When you recognize how the project has been successfully developing over the recent years, you now want to apply your findings to real-world problems in the medical field and help people" explains Dr. Frank Mickoleit, who joined the Department of Microbiology at the University of Bayreuth as a researcher in 2014. On the way out of the lab towards founding a company, the BioMagnetix team is supported by the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation of the University of Bayreuth. After initial discussions in the summer, at the end of 2022 the decision was made to found a start-up and apply for EXIST funding. This funding program is an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and is intended to encourage scientific start-ups. As a "start-up university", the University of Bayreuth actively supports start-up ideas. Therefore, the BioMagnetix team was able to quickly establish contact with the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Ever since, start-up advisor Dr. Andreas Kokott and Prof. Dr. Rodrigo Isidor, co-director of the institute, have been supporting BioMagnetix with their expertise.
Entrepreneurship & Innovation: https://www.iei.uni-bayreuth.de/de/index.html