Incubation: Gentle stimuli for pain relief

Life Science Inkubator promotes new research team

July 04, 2012

Scientists from the Life Science Inkubator (LSI) in Bonn, which was established by the technology transfer organisation Max Planck Innovation with the aim of facilitating spin-offs in the field of the life sciences, want to explore new directions in the area of pain therapy. The aim is to suppress pain using weak electric and mechanical stimuli. The stimulation will be generated using special bandages with integrated high-tech chips. Preliminary studies indicate that this process is particularly suited to the alleviation of chronic pain.

The project, which is entitled “med4life”, is the youngest member of a group of seven development ventures from the biotechnology, pharma and medical technology sectors currently being supported by the LSI. The concept behind med4life is based on tests on a phenomenon known as electromagnetic pain suppression, which are being carried out at the Universitätsklinikum Bonn. With this project, the LSI, which supports projects throughout Germany, is supporting a research group that originated in Bonn for the first time. “It is an honour and huge opportunity for us to be able to develop our methodology further to clinical applicability at the LSI,” says project head Dr. Tobias Weigl.
The pain relief system is based on a technology that combines the simulation electrodes and other components in a compact structure. “Our aim is to regulate the pain memory of chronic pain patients back to a normal level using targeted neuromodulation and in this way improve their quality of life significantly without the use of drugs,” says Weigl.

It is intended that the promotion of med4life will lead to the establishment of an independent company, as technology transfer from science to business is a fundamental objective of the LSI. One of its supported projects is currently in the process of being established as a spin-off. “We want to make outstanding research marketable. To this end we implement a support concept that is unique in Germany,” explains Managing Director of the LSI, Dr. Jörg Fregien. “What is special about our approach is its comprehensive nature: the combination of financial support with consultation for the researchers on all business matters and support in the establishment of spin-offs, including the provision of seed finance."

Scientists who would like to become active in business in Germany often face insurmountable obstacles. “There are many ideas with market potential that do not get off the ground using the usual promotional and finance processes. As a result, some business careers are over before they have even begun,” says Fregien. “We give promising concepts a chance. We provide support from an early stage when the initial findings indicate that they will open up new paths in the treatment and diagnosis of disease.”

When searching for candidates, the LSI reviews the participants of business plan competitions throughout Germany, and also looks out for outstanding ideas in universities and research institutions. Following a strict assessment, the selected researchers are hired for the duration of the project support by the LSI – up to three years. The first team started its work in 2009: “With the recent adoption of med4life, we are now fully engaged for the time being,” says Fregien. “However, we hope that our concept will set a precedent and aim to see it applied on a regional basis in the long term. This will mean that projects can be supported using the LSI model not only in Bonn, but also in other locations.”

The LSI, which was developed in close cooperation with the Max Planck Society and its technology transfer organisation Max Planck Innovation, is financed by a public-private partnership. The organisations involved in the project include the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the Max Planck Society, NRW.Bank, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Sparkasse KölnBonn, the center of advanced european studies and research (caesar), and private investors.

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