A new junior research group begins its work on January 1st at the German Primate Center (DPZ) in Göttingen. The projects of group head Jens Gruber's team bear potential for therapies of diseases like cancer, heart diseases or HIV. The junior research group "Medical RNA-Biology" studies the influence of ribonucleic acids (RNAs) on the genetic activity of cells and applies a transport method patented by the DPZ, the virus-like particles (VLP). Thanks to the economic success of this and other applicable scientific results of the DPZ, the institute finances the new junior research group completely by patent-generated income, without the need for public funds. The scientists' work is based on RNA interference: If the right RNA-molecule can be brought into the correct cell, it will precisely deactivate one gene - in the best case the one responsible for the outbreak or development of the targeted disease.
Sometimes even in science a lucky coincidence catalyzes research: For instance, when a scientist like Jens Gruber (36) and an institute like the DPZ come together, research field and technical competences combine to a promising cooperation. The coincidence, which led to the founding of the junior research group "Medical RNA-Biology" at the DPZ, was smalltalk during an off-duty visit to a horse clinic. On an evening visit in 2005 Gruber heard that the German Primate Center held the patent to a molecular transport technology of the kind he was eagerly looking for: By virus-like particles (VLP) agents can be inserted in cells in order to start a pinpointed activity. This might be used to silence genes, which may be responsible for the outbreak of diseases like HIV, osteoporosis or cancer.
Jens Gruber and his new team now work on the realization of this concept at the DPZ. Virus-like particles (VLP) are artificially produced virus-hulls without harmful properties, which can be filled with contents like RNAs in order to insert them into specific cells. "This can be a very pinpointed procedure", Jens Gruber explains, "if a process in the liver is to be deactivated, we would design the VLPs to make them only interact with liver cells." It is income from such applicable scientific results as the VLPs which enables the DPZ to finance the junior research group completely without money from public funds. The group is integrated into the Primate Genetics Laboratory (head: Prof. Lutz Walter) and is funded for at least five years. Initially the team will consist of five people. There are already numerous requests for cooperations, since Gruber's work promises new options for a lot of research fields and the fight against diseases.
Dr. Jens Gruber
Tel: +49 551 3851-481
Christian Kiel (Public Relations Department)
Tel: +49 551 3851-424
The German Primate Center (DPZ) in Göttingen, Germany, conducts basic research on and with primates in the areas of infectious diseases, neurosciences and organismic biology. In addition, it operates four field stations abroad and is a competence and reference center for primate research. The DPZ is one of the 86 research and infrastructure institutions of the Leibnitz Association in Germany (http://www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de).