More safety for medicines – Prof. Dr. Nico Lachmann receives an „ERC Proof of Concept Grant“

Prof. Dr. Nico Lachmann is a researcher at Hannover Medical School (MHH) for the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) and the Excellence Cluster RESIST.He recently received the „ERC Proof of Concept Grant“ to develop a new method to examine how drugs administered by injection can be tested for contaminants, thus increasing safety for patients.

Drugs administered by injection must, in the course of their production and approval, be continuously tested for contamination, since this may lead to a high temperature or even sepsis. Until now, this has mostly been done using animal testing, animal products or the so-called monocyte activation test (MAT). However, the use of animal testing and products should be avoided – also because they do not in part sufficiently reflect the human physiology and because the European authorities will no longer accept them as of 2026.

The MAT, based on donated blood cells, whilst better reflecting the human physiology, is not sufficiently accepted by industry because blood donations are sparse and the blood cells vary considerably. Until now, the only alternative has been artificial cells from cancer tissue, with which, however, not all contamination can be detected. Thus, new methods are urgently being sought. The answer to this could be to use innovative cell products, developed for novel therapies, also for safety evaluation of drugs.

„The iPYRO method will revolutionize the safety of drugs“

Professor Dr. Nico Lachmann, a researcher at the Clinic for Pediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology at Hannover Medical School (MHH) and at the German Center for Lung Research and the Excellence Cluster RESIST, has for this reason developed the so-called iPYRO method. Novel, artificially created immune cells are used to detect contaminants in medications. For this, the European Research Council (ERC) has recently awarded him the „ERC Proof of Concept Grant“. „Our iPYRO method will revolutionize the safety of the drugs, which can be administered parenterally by an injection – thus all injection solutions, infusions and vaccines“, says Professor Lachmann.

An „ERC Proof of Concept Grant“ should serve to determine the commercial or social innovation potential of an ERC research project. The award can only be given to researchers who have already previously received an award from the ERC. In 2019, Professor Lachmann received the renowned „ERC Starting Grant“ of 1.5 million Euros over five years for his research into human macrophages.

Human immune cells – produced in the laboratory

The method used by the BREATH scientist Prof. Lachmann is based on human cells from the immune system, which can be produced in the laboratory, fully defined and without the need for blood donation. This method uses macrophages (phagocytic cells) which originate from so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) and are cultivated in industrially applicable bioreactors.

„The cells are already being used in the development of cell-based therapies and will now be of benefit to millions more people, since safe drugs can be produced with them“, says Prof. Lachmann. The new immune cells will also allow the development of further pioneering testing methods, to promote future health research in Germany. The innovation has been able to advance at the MHH, thanks to the interdisciplinary cooperation between the Regenerative Medicine (REBIRTH Research Center for Translational and Regenerative Medicine) and Infection Research (DZL and RESIST).

We would like to wish Prof. Lachmann and his whole team much success in establishing his iPYRO method and will report here on the results. 

Text: MHH

Foto: Karin Kaiser/ MHH

Professor Lachmann with a flask of sodium chloride infusion. Professor Lachmann would like to revolutionize the safety of medications administered parenterally by injection.