Alexander Wacker Innovation Award winners announced

Team of three takes €10,000 prize for pioneering work on Esetec secretion system

Wacker Executive Board member, Auguste Willems, with this year’s winners of the Alexander Wacker Innovation Award: (from left to right) Carsten Bornhoevd, Tobias Dassler and Guenter Wich (Photo: Wacker Chemie)

Wacker Chemie has presented the €10,000 Alexander Wacker Innovation Award to Tobias Dassler, Carsten Bornhövd and Günter Wich for their pioneering work on the company's Esetec secretion system.

The researchers were honoured for their fundamental analysis of the E. coli-based production system for pharmaceutical proteins and for making enhancements which enable highly complex molecules such as antibody fragments to be produced cost-effectively and efficiently. This year’s award focused on basic research.

The prize-winning team conducted a detailed analysis of the Escherichia coli-based technology and developed new cell lines by making selected genetic modifications. As a result, antibody fragments can now be produced in high yields and be secreted into the culture medium in active form.

Antibody fragments are a promising growth area for the pharmaceutical industry, with several medications already a commercial success. However, their widespread therapeutic use has been hampered by the absence of a low-cost production method – until now.

Thanks to the team's prize-winning research, the product can be made in high yields of several grams per litre.

'The market for producing pharmaceutical proteins with the aid of microbial systems is growing at a double-digit rate each year. And antibody fragments are one of the most-promising areas in that market,' said Auguste Willems, Executive Board member of Wacker Chemie, who handed the award to the team of developers as part of Wacker’s 42nd annual R&D symposium held in Burghausen, Germany.

Companies