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More Efficiency in Drug Research through DNA Coding

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Portrait of Dr. Andreas Brunschweiger in the laboratory. © Oliver Schaper​/​TU Dort­mund
Dr. An­dre­as Brunschweiger is founder of Serengen GmbH and researcher at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity.

The development of new drugs is a protracted and financially risky endeavor. It starts with the laborious search for a substance that must feature many indispensable properties in order to be suitable as an active ingredient. Dr. An­dre­as Brunschweiger and his re­search team at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity have developed a technology that can make this process far more efficient. The license agreement with Serengen GmbH, a spin-off from TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity, has now been successfully finalized.

To increase the likelihood of success when developing drugs, re­search departments in the pharmaceutical industry test millions of mol­ecules for their effect. These test series, known as “screens”, run automatically, but are extremely complex in view of the large number of test substances. A far more efficient alternative is based on a trick: A specific DNA strand is attached to each individual molecule and serves as a barcode for it. In this way, a very large number of different mol­ecules can be mixed and stored in a molecule library and tested as mixtures too, since the candidates for active ingredients can be later identified thanks to the DNA coding. The technology developed for the DNA coding of chemical substances makes it possible to test in a significantly shorter time whether substances are suitable for further development.

New combination of natural and synthetic nucleobases

“As a storage medium, DNA is unsurpassed, and the technology of attaching DNA barcodes to mol­ecules in order to synthesize DNA-encoded molecule libraries has been used in the search for active ingredients for some time. The problem, however, is that DNA is damaged in many chemical processes that would be attractive for the production of such molecule libraries and it then ceases to be readable as a barcode,” says Dr. An­dre­as Brunschweiger. That is why he developed the idea of chemically modifying the DNA in such a way that it is more stable and tolerates many reaction conditions. Together with his re­search team, Dr. Brunschweiger found a combination of natural and synthetic nucleobases that fulfill this purpose and are read off like natural DNA. With this coding technology, the spectrum of molecule classes for the de­sign of DNA-encoded molecule libraries can now be significantly expanded.

Dr. Brunschweiger was able to register several patents, and in 2019 he set up biotechnology start-up Serengen GmbH together with partners. The company is based at TZDO, the science and technology campus in Dort­mund, which is offering services in the field of early drug re­search on the basis of the patents. TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity and PROvendis GmbH – a subsidiary of 28 universities – supported the start-up by agreeing on founder-friendly licensing conditions for the new screening technology. With the license agreement now in place, Serengen GmbH can put the invention into practice.

About the scientific publication

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Cam­pus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Cam­pus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Cam­pus to South Cam­pus by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Cam­pus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duis­burg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on North Cam­pus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Cam­pus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Cam­pus and offers a direct connection to South Cam­pus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Cam­pus North and the smaller Cam­pus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).