BMBF funding "GO-Bio": HIRI receives up to 733,000 euros

Grant is dedicated to the pre-commercial development of LEOPARD, a new diagnostic technology

Würzburg, October 29, 2021 – The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) is supporting the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) in Würzburg with up to 733,000 euros. The grant is awarded to Daphne Collias, a post-doc in Chase Beisel’s lab at HIRI, to take the new and award-winning LEOPARD technology a decisive step further towards commercialization. In the future, LEOPARD may help physicians and patients by providing more comprehensive diagnostic information about a patient’s health. The funding is part of the "GO-Bio initial" program from the BMBF and is granted for a period of 24 months.

It was a bit of a sensation earlier this year: The Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) Würzburg in collaboration with the Julius Maximilian’s University (JMU) published new findings on CRISPR, the natural gene scissors that are part of bacterial immune systems. In a collaboration between the lab of Chase Beisel – principal investigator at HIRI and professor at JMU – and the lab of Cynthia Sharma, also professor at JMU, research on CRISPR RNAs resulted in the development of a new diagnostic platform. They called it LEOPARD, which stands for “Leveraging Engineered tracrRNAs and On-target DNAs for PArallel RNA Detection.

Unlike established tools such as standard PCR tests currently used in the COVID pandemic, LEOPARD provides much more information in just one test. This would give doctors a more thorough understanding of a patient’s health status and could potentially lead to better treatment plans for patients.

Award-winning research

For its research and the perspective to translate LEOPARD into a powerful clinical application, HIRI was already awarded the "Medical Valley Award" of the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. The team of HIRI and JMU also emerged as a winner in this year's “Science Breakthroughs of the Year”, an annual competition of the Falling Walls Foundation, Berlin. In addition, LEOPARD was funded within the exploratory phase of BMBF’s "GO-Bio initial" program this past year.

The subsequent BMBF funding of up to roughly 733,000 euros is now dedicated to advance the marketability of LEOPARD. The grant will enable HIRI to evaluate high-performing Cas nucleases and a new readout method to translate the LEOPARD technology into a more practical diagnostic.

Jörg Vogel, Managing Director at the HIRI: "LEOPARD is both an impressive and a successful example of the overarching goal of our scientific work: the strive for a translation from basic RNA research into clinical application. I greatly appreciate the current BMBF funding as it encourages and supports us to vehemently pursue our goals."

About GO-Bio initial

Through its "GO-Bio initial” funding program, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) supports promising innovative research approaches in life sciences. The overarching goal of the program is the transfer into practical application. Only actual eligible costs are funded through "GO-Bio initial”.

More about LEOPARD

Britta Grigull

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Dr Britta Grigull