Natural compounds and formulations

We screen compound libraries in order to identify new candidates that inhibit bacterial and viral pathogens, modulate immunity, or enhance vaccine responses. The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), which is one of the founding partners of TWINCORE, has extensive expertise in the isolation, synthesis and optimization of natural compounds. In our search for new anti-viral and anti-bacterial candidates, we screen the compound library of the HZI and we elucidate metabolic pathways that are affected by the new candidates.

Anti-viral components

In recent years, important breakthroughs were accomplished in the development of novel antiviral drugs. For instance, chronic hepatitis C virus infection can now be cured in more than 95% of cases by novel combination therapies. However, for other viral pathogens, like the respiratory syncytial virus, effective antiviral therapies are unfortunately not available. Therefore, we search for molecules that inhibit important human viral pathogens.

Antimicrobial components

Biofilm-associated infections are difficult to eradicate, because bacteria, which are organized within biofilms, exhibit tolerance towards the activity of antimicrobial compounds. We search for novel compounds with an anti-biofilm activity that in combination with common antibiotics effectively clear biofilm-associated infections.

Metabolism und immunmodulation

Our recent research has shown that bacteria-derived natural compounds can significantly influence the metabolism of immune cells and impact on their function. We study the therapeutic potential of immune modulation by such specific bacterial compounds.

Liver cells as target cells

The liver is the largest organ of our body, highly regenerative and the central side for our amino acid, sugar and lipid metabolism. The organ consists of five main cell types, which provide distinct functions within the organ. With established protocols all five primary cell fractions can be isolated  from various animal organs and human tissue with high purity and are provided for experiments. Purified hepatocytes in culture can be utilized for hepatitis research (uptake  and replication of HCV, drug screening etc.). With hepatic stellate/myofibroblast cells we study RNA based drugs for the inhibition of pro-fibrogenic properties or such for ways to reprogram these cells into hepatocytes.

Alveolare macrophage targeting

Alveolar macrophages, the “gatekeepers” of the lung, are often the primary targets of respiratory tract infecctionsIn many. For example, the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), which can cause tuberculosis, preferentially infects alveolar macrophages. However, infected alveolar macrophages often cannot kill the pathogen, which leads to formation of chronically infected cell aggregates (granuloma). We therefore aim to formulate antibiotics using functionalized liposomes so that the antibiotics are selectively taken up by alveolar macrophages and reach subcellular compartments where the pathogen resides.