The Systematic Thinker
Stefan Schreiber decodes the root causes of disease.
Linear logic is not enough for him. Stefan Schreiber wants to grasp the emergence of diseases within a system context. His objective: To stop their development and disrupt the human aging process. He starts at the smallest scale: Molecular research with a focus on chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Because, as this gastro-enterologist will tell you, that's where many pathogenic deviations occur. The FiZ is also benefiting from his counsel: Prof. Schreiber is a member of its Supervisory Board.
"It's no longer about a single organ or disease nowadays. The real challenge involves understanding how the organs interact as well as the many dimensions of human disease."
Together with his more than 150 employees, this Berliner has assembled an unrivaled genetic research team based in Kiel. The innovative drive of this scientific team is also based on an interdisciplinary approach. Schreiber himself has always blurred the lines between the various medical specialties. One-sidedness is a foreign concept to him. The doctor feels just as at home in the laboratory, the university auditorium or the conference room, as he does at the patient's bedside. He meets people on a daily basis, whose chronic diseases he is unable to cure - a situation that highly displeases him, while simultaneously providing him with additional drive.
"The life sciences are a research and market segment, in which an economic revolution is about to occur in the next few years."
Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Schreiber (* 1962) is a member of the FiZ Supervisory Board. He is the Director of the Clinic for Internal Medicine at Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in Kiel and Director of the Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology at the Kiel University School of Medicine. According to a new study by Thomson Reuters, Prof. Schreiber is among the most influential scientists in the world*.
The Human Geneticist
Daniela Steinberger catalogs genetic information.
The DNA thing has fascinated her since childhood. Since then, Daniela Steinberger has spent more than 20 years of her professional life in the field of genetic diagnostics. Her mission: Every human being should have access to his or her genetic information in order to make better therapeutic and life decisions.
"It’s about providing all of the people who want it with sovereignty over their genetic information."
In 2009, she founded a specialized center for diagnostics and consulting in outpatient medical care. Steinberger's team analyzes the genetic makeup of patients in order to target medical treatments to each individual patient, thus improving therapeutic success. A gene diagnosis can assist healthy patients in identifying the properties of their metabolism and estimating the likelihood of developing hereditary diseases.
"There is so much medical and genetic information available nowadays that we are unable to make proper use of it without complex tools."
Our understanding of human genes grows on a near-daily basis. This improves the diagnosis but simultaneously gives rise to a problem: People are no longer able to manage all of this information. And it hasn't been saved in any archive. Toward this end, Daniela Steinberger is working with a second team to systematically synthesize genetic information. Because all of this information is of no use unless it is available to treating physicians or the gene carriers themselves at the decisive moment.
Prof. Dr. med. Daniela Steinberger (*1963) is Medical Director and Founder of the bio.logis Center for Human Genetics (CfH) and CEO and Founder of bio.logis Genetic Information Management GmbH.
The Super Sequencer
Björn Rotter perfects gene sequencing and expression analysis.
After earning his doctorate in Paris, the young biologist actually planned to apply for jobs in the conventional manner. But Dr. Peter Winter, the initiator and CEO of GenXPro, offered him the opportunity to become a member of the founding team. This is how Björn Rotter, together with his colleagues, created one of the first companies in Europe to provide gene expression analysis services with novel sequencing methods. In their laboratory, Rotter and 13 other employees study the genetics and genetic activity of biological samples and analyze the results with modern methods that employ bioinformatics - a valuable service for the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, but also for many research institutions.
"Our molecular biology techniques reduce the complexity of samples, making sequencing less expensive and faster with excellent quality."
Rotter and his team collect so-called nucleotide-based information from cells, biopsies, and bodily fluids, including: Genome sequence, gene activity, mutations, small RNAs, and epigenetic patterns. These provide a comprehensive picture of cell programming and function. The method developed by Rotter at GenXPro enables test material to be processed without any of the errors that typically occur with conventional methods. The exact quantification of the biological processes enabled by this method provides its fundamental quality advantage as compared to the methods of other companies.
"With our analyses, we are able to obtain a better understanding of diseases, such as cancer, and find new points of attack for therapies."
All of the techniques are based on high-throughput sequencing, a method that is currently turning the entire life sciences sector upside down. The high-resolution analyses by GenXPro are already in use for improved cancer diagnostics. GenXPro is primarily involved in early cancer diagnosis based on blood tests and providing access to targeted, individualized cancer therapies (companion diagnostics). In addition to medical research, the techniques are also used in plant breeding to identify genes with positive characteristics, such as drought tolerance and resistance to pests.
Rotter became interested in biochemistry while at University. But he wanted out of the "ivory tower" in order to use science to make a difference. And his efforts and those of GenXPro have achieved success: High-resolution analyses are now available as a service to every customer, not just a select group of insiders. The everyday work at GenXPro produces new insights that advance medical and plant sciences research.
Dr. Björn Rotter (* 1973) is Co-Founder and Scientific Director of GenXPro GmbH.
Christian Garbe sparks people's interest and ideas.
The nerdy eyeglasses are the first thing they notice. This is also why Christian Garbe could be considered "Mr. Innovation" as Petra Roth, the legendary Mayor of Frankfurt, once described him. But that's only part of the story. Garbe is a trained agronomist with a doctorate in institutional economics. Prior to his time at FiZ, he worked as a biotech analyst in the financial sector and at Novartis. This alone makes him a polymath, an expert in multiple fields. His business partners also describe him as a passionate networker who thinks outside the conventional box and sparks people's interest as well as ideas.
"It is a true passion of mine to establish a new German engineering: Innovation based on smart networking!"
This is the objective of the Frankfurt Biotechnology Innovation Center (FIZ): To create new life-science business models that provide a basis for growth. Garbe seeks and fosters companies that combine existing expertise and technologies to create innovative and profitable products. As someone who has been there from the very start, Garbe has made the Innovation Center what it is today: Since 2002, the FIZ has grown to encompass 16 companies and start-ups, employing approximately 700 people – with a clear market focus, positioned precisely at the interface between science and the market. Since 2014 and following two expansions, the FIZ has reached full capacity in the truest sense of the term.
In actual fact, Christian Garbe was just passing through Frankfurt on his way out; in the midst of the financial crisis and disenchanted with his job as an analyst, he had already packed his bags and was ready to move on. But then the request by former State Premier Roland Koch became his personal mission: To assist in the establishment of a modern life sciences sector in Frankfurt and to prepare for the digital age. The starting conditions were extremely difficult: The first biotech boom had gone bust just as the initial building phase of the FIZ was completed. The solution: An international approach and the highest level of quality. Since then, Garbe has relentlessly worked to establish the FIZ as a network partner dedicated to personalized medicine.
"New German Engineering involves our approach to digitalization and the use of new connections between issues to develop smart solutions and business models."
Christian Garbe predicts the disintegration of existing schools of thought and sectors: Growth today is occurring in the peripheral sectors and at the intersections between the sciences and the market. New opportunities will occur here. Digitalization is a major driving force here, but the greatest driving force involves people with a very special gift: The ability to move between these worlds, true entrepreneurs that can give flight to these ideas and spark the interest of other people. Conclusion: We haven't heard the last of Christian Garbe. He is certain that we are in the midst of "the most exciting of all eras". Many parts are now coming together...
Dr. Christian Garbe (* 1965) is the Chief Executive Officer of FiZ Frankfurter Innovationszentrum Biotechnologie GmbH
The Data Decipherer
Artem Andrianov monitors the risks associated with clinical studies.
He's fond of chaos and seeks to master it. For Artem Andrianov this is not a contradiction: Together with his employees, the data specialist has developed an early-warning system that reviews and systematizes the data collected during a clinical study. This is his approach to making research results more reliable and cost-effective.
"Clinical studies generate a chaotic setting: They are highly complex and simultaneously involve a vast number of people. They also involve errors."
Clinical studies produce enormous amounts of data and even the smallest error can distort the overall outcome. Nevertheless, risk management remains uncharted territory in the field of pharmaceutical research - a challenge tailor-made for Andrianov: He started programming when he was just a kid, earned a doctorate in mathematical modeling, and enjoyed a successful career as a programmer.
"We need to not only verify and organize data, we need to more quickly and reliably identify the significance of the picture formed by the data."
Nowadays, it's about so much more than that for him: He doesn't just want to sort the data, he wants to "make the data speak". To this end, he and his team are combining the experience and knowledge gained from previous studies. This enables him to generate a frame of reference that covers risks and potential errors, providing him with a proverbial "canary in a coal mine" to identify anything that might throw the system out of balance and prevent the approval of a medication.
Artem Andrianov, PhD, MBA, (*1981) is Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder, and Co-Owner of Cyntegrity Germany GmbH.