The first joint public appearance of the numerous players of the BioRN top cluster underlines the importance of cooperations between industry and science. At the first annual BioRN conference, the “Cell-based and molecular medicine” top cluster announced the successful launch of five cooperative projects funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. During a strategy workshop, the companies involved presented all 36 individual projects and conveyed an impression of the high degree of co-operation between research and industry.
On 7th June 2009, the first annual BioRN conference of the “Cell-based and molecular medicine” top cluster began with a scientific symposium on personalised medicine. The meeting got underway with the award of the Richtzenhain Award by the official partner of the event, the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). On behalf of the entire DKFZ board of directors, Prof. Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler awarded the prize to the German cancer researchers Prof. Dr. Christopher Heeschen and Prof. Dr. Stephan Stilgenbauer. Internationally renowned scientists subsequently presented their latest research results, followed by the presentation of R&D projects by companies in the BioRN top cluster. From the BioRN Incubator to the BioRN Biomarker Centre to the BioRN Stem Cell Network: the goal of all individual projects is to bring biotechnological innovations to industrial maturity. This means developing and testing drug candidates, diagnostic test systems and technology platforms with the overall objective of generating money.
The sector faces a particular problem: it requires a huge number of new drug candidates, but lacks financing possibilities. “A potential solution to this dilemma is the top cluster award of the Rhine-Neckar BioRegion,” said Dr. Thomas Höger, managing director of Apogenix and representative of the BioRN Incubator. He is hoping for an even more intensive cooperation with the pharmaceutical companies of the region with the aim of jointly managing the cost-intensive development of products up to market launch. As far as industry is concerned, cooperations within the cluster appear to have enormous potential for all parties involved. “Conditions in the Rhine-Neckar BioRegion are excellent and also very promising, especially given that the area is home to the German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Heidelberg, not to mention a large number of biotech companies,” said Dr. Erhard Fernholz of Roche, speaking on behalf of the BioRN Biomarker Centre. Besides Roche, Merck Serono and Abbott are big industrial partners in the BioRN top cluster. Prof. Dr. Andreas Trumpp characterised the region’s stem cell research (BioRN Stem Cell Network) as the “core of the top cluster”. The internationally renowned researcher feels that the top cluster award and the foundation of HI-STEM gGmbH (Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine) has given stem cell research a boost and has provided an excellent opportunity for the economic exploitation of the results of such research. Since the economic exploitation of innovative products also requires senior management to be highly qualified, the objective of the BioRN Academy cooperative project is to help particularly gifted life sciences researchers from all over Europe gain such skills. “We hope to expand the further training landscape of the Rhine-Neckar BioRegion and increase the attractiveness of the region for life science specialists,” explained Prof. Dr. Gerald Graf from the Rhine Neckar Graduate School on behalf of the BioRN Academy. The fifth cooperative project is the BioRN Cluster Management which is responsible for the coordination, marketing and networking of the BioRN top Cluster. Cluster manager Dr. Christian Tidona is well aware of the importance of networking for the economic development of a cluster: “Through the committed cooperation of all the key decision-makers from industry, science and politics, the Rhine-Neckar BioRegion is taking a huge step forward. And this is exactly what we need in order to reach our ambitious goal: to become the number one in medical biotechnology in Europe.