Biotechnologists sign license agreement to validate technology in industry cooperation
RWTH Aachen University is known for its excellent research in engineering, including biotechnological engineering. The latest example: the Aachen Proteineers, who have just signed a license agreement to bring technology developed at RWTH Aachen University and DWI-Leibniz institute of Interactive Materials to industry application.
Aachen Proteineers – that is Julian Karl, Dr. Karl-Heinz Maurer, and Dr. Maximillian Nöth – is a start-up focusing on innovative, high-quality, biological coating solutions, which was founded in summer 2019 as a spin-off of the Chair of Biotechnology. The technological centerpiece of the business, however, has a much longer history, as Maximilian explains: “Sustainable, biological coating solutions have been developed by our group since more than a decade. During my PhD, I couldn’t get rid of the idea of how to bring this technology into application and commercialization. An outstanding application example, that was already well developed by my colleagues and ready for application at that time, was the greenRelease technology.” greenRelease is an award-winning plant health technology that was jointly developed by RWTH Aachen University and the DWI-Leibniz Institute of Interactive Materials, including the Chair of Biotechnology lead by Prof. Ulrich Schwaneberg, the Chair Functional and Interactive Polymers directed by Prof. Andrij Pich and the Teaching and Research Area Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology headed by Prof. Uwe Conrath. The goal was to tackle one of the main shortcomings of conventional release mechanisms for active compounds such as pesticides, fertilizers or nutrients: the active compounds’ insufficient adhesion to plant surfaces. Due to their low adhesive character, conventionally distributed active compounds are easily washed off by rain and subsequently enter the soil and ground water, with dire consequences not just for plant health but also for human well-being.
REVOLUTIONIZING ACTIVE COMPOUND RELEASE
The greenRelease technology offers a new method of applying active compounds with positive effects on the entire agricultural and food value chain. With the help of anchor peptides, biocompatible microgel containers filled with active compounds can be applied to the plant surface. The rain-resistant, lasting coating of plants allows a continuous release, thereby significantly reducing the required amount of active compounds. In addition to minimizing hazardous waste, the technology stands out due its high plant compatibility and adjustable biodegradability. With the “Innovationspreis der BioRegionen Deutschlands 2018” and the first prize of the “Bio-Gründer Wettbewerb 2019”, the greenRelease technology has won important innovation and start-up prizes in the field.
Finding a high-quality, tailor-made and sustainable alternative solution for active compound release was not just a driving factor in the development of the technology by the researchers, but also a key concern of industry players. “The industry is signaling great interest in the technology, adding a business perspective to the research and development”, Maximilian recalls. That’s how the idea for the newly signed license agreement formed – as means of translating knowledge into real-life impact. “As Aachen Proteineers, we want to bridge the gap between our research-based technology and industry application”, Julian explains. “The license agreement helps us to realize this next step.”
TURNING TECH INTO IMPACT
Together with their co-founder Karl-Heinz Maurer, Julian and Maximilian now want to test and validate the patented technology in cooperation with interested companies in order to further explore its potential in real-life applications. Building on the strong interdisciplinary research at RWTH Aachen University, the Aachen Proteineers now want to strengthen the bond with RWTH Aachen University to bring biotechnological innovation from Aachen to the market.
“RWTH Aachen University is known for its excellent teaching and research. The new license agreement gives us the opportunity to recruit young talents from the university. At the same time, we want to expose students to the idea and opportunity of founding a start-up and motivate them to consider this career path early on in their studies.”
We’re proud to watch you turn your technology into impact with the new license agreement, while also being great ambassadors for the start-up spirit and encouraging others to start their entrepreneurial journey.