Kiel: Translating marine sciences into medicine

Kiel: Translating marine sciences into medicine

The publicly funded BlueHealthTech innovation alliance combines competencies from the fields of marine research and health care in the Kiel region to improve the treatment of chronic diseases in a multi- and transdisciplinary approach.

Marine sciences funded by the BMBF

The German city of Kiel, capital of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, may not be a heavyweight from an industrial point of view. But it has much innovative potential to offer, particularly in the life sciences. Powerhouses include GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, a leading institution for marine science, the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Kiel University and major medical technology companies such as Stryker Trauma GmbH.

“In the BlueHealthTech innovation alliance, we bring the region’s two areas of strength together – marine sciences and the health sector – to improve the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases”, says Anton Eisenhauer, Alliance Coordinator and Head of Isotope Geochemistry at GEOMAR. The concept also convinced the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and in August 2021 it decided to support the alliance as one of 23 nationwide under its funding program “Innovation and structural change / WIR!”. It will provide 15 million euros in funding over the next six years. “This decision is a huge milestone for everyone involved. Our idea, our broad regional partnership, our concept and the multitude of exciting project proposals fully convinced the jury,” says Eisenhauer. The alliance was established by four partners: Stryker, GEOMAR, Kiel University and USKH. BlueHealthTech has 37 members to date and it is open to more.

We bring the region’s two areas of strength together – marine sciences and health industry.

Prof Anton Eisenhauer,
Coordinator of BlueHealthTech and
Professor of Marine Isotope Geochemistry at GEOMAR.

How does the BlueHealthTech Alliance want to combat chronic diseases?

The goal of the BlueHealthTech alliance is the development and economic exploitation of innovative, biochemical agents based on marine organisms and the application of sensitive trace substance analytics from marine research to develop new approaches to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Among the diseases the network focuses on are

  • diabetes,
  • cancer,
  • osteoporosis,
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • and hypertony.
Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with 15 million euros, it comprises partners from academia, industry and hospitals. © BlueHealthTech
Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with 15 million euros, it comprises partners from academia, industry and hospitals. © BlueHealthTech

What goals has Allianz set itself?

“Our vision is to be able to fight these diseases even before symptoms appear,” Eisenhauer points out. “We received 26 excellent scientific proposals for inter- and transdisciplinary projects from which we will select up to seven,” says Eisenhauer. He underlines the alliance would anticipate translational projects with a high technology readiness level.

The original founder of BlueHealthTech is Schönkirchen-based Stryker. “We soon recognized the potential of the interaction between the different sectors and therefore worked towards establishing BlueHealthTech,” says Nils Reimers, Project Director and Director of Global Research and Development at Stryker. “As the market leader in bone marrow nails for the treatment of fractures, we want to work with local partners to identify areas of innovation, launch innovative products and thus secure sustainable economic growth in the region.”

Further projects with osteolabs at Ocean Research Kiel

In a pilot project, Stryker is working with the start-up osteolabs GmbH to develop a new type of bone cement made from a mineral biomaterial. The cement is intended to enable better anchoring and stabilization of implants used in bone repair, such as femoral neck fracture care. “The interdisciplinary ties between research at Kiel University and the expertise of GEOMAR and UKSH in health research and application, and the knowledge of medical technology and the health care industry, creates a unique platform for successful cross-innovation,” adds Carsten Schultz, Professor of Technology Management at Kiel University.

His team uses strategic foresight methods including scenario analysis of the demands of the health care market to develop technology roadmaps. These indicate future fields of innovation with high potential for projects with local partners in Kiel. Jens Scholz, Chairman of the Board at UKSH said, “We recognize the potential for our patients in combining blue biotechnology, medical research and innovative therapy development for the early detection and prevention of chronic diseases. We look forward to working together in this interdisciplinary consortium.”

Text: Philipp Graf

Featured image: © Adobe Stock, Jeremy Bishop

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