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Starting up Science: From Lab to Therapy

Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung | Craig M. Crews, Christian Hackenberger, Andrea Tüttenberg

How can ideas spawned by curiosity-driven research bring about new treatment options? Speaking live from Yale University, 2020 Heinrich Wieland Prize laureate Craig M. Crews discusses his experiences with scientists from Germany. Be there and join in the discussion!

What path does an idea spawned by curiosity-driven research take from lab to real-world treatment? How do science-based start-ups succeed in the US and in Germany? These and other questions will be discussed during this virtual meeting organised by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation. Our special guest at the event is Heinrich Wieland Prize winner Craig M. Crews. The chemist and professor at Yale University is a pioneer in the field of controlled protein degradation. His early research led to an FDA-approved drug used to treat multiple myeloma. More recently, he developed a new technology that allows destruction of disease-associated proteins that so far remained intractable, paving the way for entirely new treatment options. Arvinas, the start-up founded on the basis of this technology, is currently conducting initial clinical trials of new treatments for metastatic prostate and breast cancer. At the event, Craig M. Crews will meet with scientists from Germany who have also founded start-ups: What framework do they need? What helped and what hindered their undertaking? At the end, we will invite the audience to participate in the discussion and share their own experiences.

PUBLIC DISCUSSION VIA LIVESTREAM. FOLLOWED BY A Q&A SESSION ON ZOOM.

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Craig M. Crews

YALE UNIVERSITY

John C. Malone Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and Professor of Chemistry, of Pharmacology, and of Management at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Craig M. Crews is a pioneer in the field of controlled protein degradation. His early research, which was focused on blocking the cell’s protein degradation machinery, led to an FDA-approved drug used to treat multiple myeloma. More recently, Craig M. Crews conceived and demonstrated proof-of-concept of an entirely new approach to control protein levels in cells: the so-called PROTAC technology (PROTteolysis TArgeting Chimera). PROTACs activate a cell’s quality control system to target disease-causing proteins for degradation, paving the way for entirely new treatment options for various diseases. The first PROTACs are already in clinical trials by the Yale-based company Arvinas, which Craig M. Crews founded a few years ago. They target the androgen and estrogen receptors in patients with metastatic prostate and breast cancer.

Christian Hackenberger

Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie

Department Head at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP), and Leibniz Humboldt Professor for Chemical Biology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Christian Hackenberger studied chemistry in Freiburg, Madison and Aachen. After a postdoc at MIT, he started his group at FU Berlin in 2005 as an Emmy Noether fellow. In 2012, he became Leibniz-Humboldt Professor for chemical biology at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie and the HU Berlin.

Christian Hackenberger has developed new ways to chemically attach proteins to synthetic molecules – an important step forward in tweaking proteins for medical applications. With colleagues in Berlin, Christian Hackenberger recently coupled a protein scaffold from harmless microbes in the human gut with sugar molecules that influenza viruses use as an entry port into lung cells. These artificial sugar-coated protein scaffolds hold promise for new antiviral drugs, as they capture influenza viruses before they can infect lung cells. In another approach, Christian Hackenberger has linked toxic chemotherapeutics with antibodies to target them specifically to tumour cells and thus avoid unwanted side effects on the rest of the body. He recently co-founded the start-up Tubulis with colleagues at LMU München to develop these antibody-drug-conjugates further.

Andrea Tüttenberg

ACTITREXX, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTRE OF THE JOHANNES GUTENBERG UNIVERSITY IN MAINZ

CEO of ActiTrexx GmbH and Department Head of Skin and Lymph Node Sonography at the University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany

Andrea Tüttenberg has shown that malignant melanoma can be fought by loading a special type of immune cells from the blood with tumour elements and reintroducing these cells into the body as a vaccine. This enables the immune system to recognize the tumour cells as foreign and kill them. Together with colleagues in Mainz, Andrea Tüttenberg also developed a new strategy for treating graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), which can occur after transplanting blood stem cells in leukemic patients. Her approach exploits the body’s own ability to maintain immunologic tolerance using regulatory T cells and thus avoids the severe side effects of conventional GvHD treatments, such as infections and relapse of leukemia. At ActiTrexx, she is developing this approach further to enable the safe transplantation of blood stem cells and new options to treat autoimmune diseases.

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