Tailor-made Light Sources
A University of Freiburg Start-up Receives the CyberOne Hightech Award
Optogenetics in the spotlight: the researchers from the “opto biolabs” start-up, a spin-off from the University of Freiburg, produce tailor-made light sources for biological and medical research. Dr. Kathrin Brenker’s team invented a method that can use light signals to manipulate the communication within a cell. The start-up has now been awarded the CyberOne Hightech Award Baden-Württemberg for its invention.
With funding from the federal state and sponsors, the competition is run by Connected e.V., a network for the high-tech industry in Baden-Württemberg. Each year, three visionary business concepts from technology-oriented start-ups and companies receive the CyberOne Hightech Award; this year it was presented by Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister of Economic Affairs, Labor and Housing of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Each prize is endowed with EUR 10,000.
Together with the physicist Dr. Dirk Riemann and the economist Raphael Holubarsch, Brenker wants to combine the fields of flow cytometry and optogenetics in “opto biolabs”: flow cytometry is a biological measuring procedure that makes it possible to determine the characteristics of thousands of cells in seconds. Optogenetics is a method that can use light signals to manipulate the communication within a cell. This communication is crucial to the correct functioning of the human body, and is impaired in autoimmune, cardiovascular or cancerous diseases for example. In order to develop effective treatments, scientists are attempting to understand these communication networks precisely with the aid of optogenetics. Until now, however, there have been hardly any suitable lighting apparatuses. Now, the Freiburg start-up is producing the ‘pxONE’, which Brenker developed while writing her doctoral thesis.
This is a specialized attachment enabling efficient analysis of optogenetic effects within a cell with the aid of a flow cytometer. The Freiburg biologist is delighted about the honor, “The award and its prize money are a great help to us progressing our development work and marketing of the ‘pxONE’.”
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has backed the idea with an EXIST start-up scholarship, and the team from the Founders’ Office of the University of Freiburg, which advises scientists who have promising concepts, has been assisting Brenker and her team.