Hain Lifescience GmbH is a biotechnology company that develops, manufactures and distributes molecular genetic test systems and instruments. The company was established by brothers David and Tobias Hain in 1988 and employs over 100 people at its headquarters in the city of Nehren in the district of Tübingen. Hain Lifescience also has four subsidiaries abroad. The company focusses on the development of test systems for the early and rapid identification of bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is the major cause of hospital-acquired infections. The company’s MRSA test provides a reliable result in less than three hours, enabling appropriate therapeutic measures to be taken rapidly.
Multidrug-resistant bacteria are resistant to many existing antibiotics and can be difficult to treat. There are increasing numbers of them worldwide. Although novel antibiotics are being developed, there are far too few of them to tackle the rise of multidrug-resistant bacteria. In Eastern Europe, doctors have been treating bacterial infections with viruses that infect bacteria, so-called bacteriophages, for almost 100 years.
Microbial metabolic products can be used in the fight against dangerous pathogens such as multidrug-resistant bacteria. Since summer 2014, microbiologist Prof. Dr. Heike Brötz-Oesterhelt has been investigating the mechanisms of action of bacterial substances at the University of Tübingen with the aim of paving the way for new antibiotics. Interesting candidates have already been identified.
Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria is a major reason for the spread of bacterial antibiotic resistance. It is the transfer of bacterial DNA from one bacterium to another, even distantly related species, by bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. Microbiologists from the University of Tübingen are investigating these mechanisms with the aim of finding new strategies that would effectively combat bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is a troublesome bacterial strain in hospitals. In addition, the researchers are calling for more effective hygiene measures and are involved in the in-depth investigation of bacterial ecology.
Bacteria's increasing resistance to antibiotics is a very serious medical issue. An infection with pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria can be life-threatening for hospital patients because MRSA has become resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics. Although reserve antibiotics are available in cases where others have lost their ability to control or kill bacterial growth effectively, they do not always work, and the development of resistance can make them even less effective. In the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), to which 35 institutions throughout Germany are affiliated, scientists from the University of Tübingen and their colleagues have developed a new drug which kills MRSA cells rapidly without affecting a patient’s natural microflora or promoting the development of resistance. In the coming months, the scientists will be preparing the compound for clinical testing.
The mechanism underlying the export of biomolecules from cells remains unknown. Prof. Dr. Friedrich Götz and his team at the Institute of Microbial Genetics at the University of Tübingen have found out that staphylococci can turn into dangerous pathogens by excreting normally harmless enzymes. The researchers believe that the enigmatic excretion of such enzymes is due to a completely new mechanism and are thus planning to carry out further studies to explore how proteins leave cells.
Infections caused by bacteria that contaminate the surface of medical devices such as catheters and wound dressings are not that rare and can even be life-threatening. However, at present there is no really effective way to keep these products germ-free until they are used. Scientists at the University of Freiburg have now developed a surface coating that reliably kills bacteria, but is harmless to human cells.
Antibiotic-resistant pathogens are becoming an increasing problem, especially in hospitals. Infected patients must be isolated as soon as possible. However, appropriate methods for testing patients upon admission to hospital and isolating them if necessary are still lacking. A young biotechnology company from Baden-Württemberg called SpinDiag GmbH has developed a cost-effective method for the rapid testing of microbial resistance in normal hospital wards without the need for comprehensive equipment.
Antibiotics have long been used as all-purpose weapons against infectious diseases – too often and too early, as we now know. This tendency has caused many bacteria to become resistant to standard antibiotics. The search for new substance classes has proved quite difficult. Care must therefore be taken to use existing antibiotics prudently in order to reduce the number of bacteria becoming resistant to them in the long term. Researchers from IMTEK and BIOSS at the University of Freiburg have jointly developed a sensor platform to simultaneously quantify several antibiotics in human blood within a few minutes.
While fighting and curing bacterial infections in sick patients is one part of the picture, epidemiological investigation of the spread of pathogens is another. Dr. Matthias Willmann also assesses the impact of these factors on the healthcare system as a whole and draws conclusions that might boost early detection of pathogens and prevention of infections.
Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and diseases such as breast or colon cancer are among the major causes of death worldwide. Early diagnosis is therefore key for the identification of people affected and for providing immediate therapy. The R&D service provider Hahn-Schickard and its partners are currently working on the development of a rapid and simple diagnostic system that can detect life-threatening infections and cancer at an early stage.
Heidelberg University Hospital and the University Medical Centre in Mannheim are working hard to counteract the increase of antibiotic resistance. Strategies include a European-wide system for infection surveillance, the training of health professionals in the responsible use of antibiotics and the search for novel antibiotic substances in unconventional organisms.
Fungal infections of skin and mucous membranes are relatively common. Around 75 percent of the human population lives with Candida albicans, a fungus that has no harmful effects in people with an intact immune system that can fight off systemic infections. However, in people with immune systems that have been weakened by antibiotics or radiotherapy for example C. albicans infections can lead to sepsis which may even be life-threatening. Prof. Dr. Martin Schaller and his group of researchers in the Department of Dermatology at Tübingen University Hospital have been studying the molecular pathogenesis of Candida infections for many years. The researchers have recently discovered that common probiotic bacteria are very effective against such infections.
Quite a number of promising drug candidates for the treatment of diabetes are currently in the pharmaceutical pipeline, including innovative drugs that can stimulate the regeneration of insulin-producing pancreatic cells. However, they will have to be safety tested in animals. Scientists from Ulm University Hospital have now begun to develop a pancreatic chip from stem cells.
Dr. Bodo Philipp from the University of Constance specifically focuses on ecologically relevant activities of bacteria for example cell-cell interactions. His findings could prove effective in removing bacteria from areas where high levels of hygiene are required thereby making it possible to prevent life-threatening bacterial infectious diseases. Dr. Bodo Philipp uses the much feared Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria as model organisms for his research.
Phytopharmaceuticals are herbal medicines whose efficacy is down to one or several plant substances or active ingredients. They have been used for treating diseases since time immemorial. This traditional knowledge is still the basis for many medicinal products made from plants or parts thereof. Herbal medicines have been produced in Baden-Württemberg for many generations.
In Baden-Württemberg alone up to 600000 animals are used for scientific purposes every year. In order to reduce their pain and suffering as much as possible researchers all over the world are working on the development of innovative methods to replace animal experiments including cell culture methods for drug analysis artificial blood vessel systems for testing chemicals and rapid computer simulations used in diabetes research.