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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.
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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”.