Two million euros in LIFT grants for public-private partnerships in chemistry

29 August 2017

Seven academic researchers will receive funding from the Innovation Fund for Chemistry for joint ventures with private partners in a range of areas, such as producing medicines more efficiently, and sustainable antifreeze. Dick Janssen (RUG), Peter van der Sluijs (UU), Luc Brunsveld (TU/e), Geert-Jan Witkamp (Delft University of Technology; TUD), Ilja Voets (TU/e), Aletta Kraneveld (UU) and Gilles van Wezel (Leiden University; UL) have had a LIFT project accepted. The companies involved are jointly contributing half a million euros to the various LIFT projects. Private contributions to LIFT make up a quarter of the cash.

The LIFT awards are listed below (in alphabetical order):

New measurement techniques for more rapid and better detection of lung cancer
Luc Brunsveld (Eindhoven University of Technology) in collaboration with Daan van der Kerkhof (Catharina Hospital), Maarten Broeren (Máxima Medical Center) and Peter Gisberts (Roche Diagnostics)
There is a need for more rapid and more patient-specific laboratory techniques for the detection of lung tumours. This enables the more invasive pathological detection techniques and treatments to be used to greater effect, while cutting costs. Simultaneous measurement of multiple tumour markers is the key. In this project, these tumour markers will be validated in a study that will take place simultaneously in several different hospitals. Furthermore, new chemical analysis techniques will be developed for the tumour markers. All of this will be combined in an computer decision model that will help physicians reach a correct diagnosis.

Enzymes from the computer
Dick Janssen (University of Groningen) in collaboration with Peter Quadflieg (EnzyPep)
Chemical reactions catalysed by enzymes are used on an ever larger scale because of their environmental and economic advantages. However, adapting enzymes to the desired process is often very time-consuming and costly. Therefore, computer methods will be developed in this project to predict how an enzyme should be modified to make it suitable for new applications. The results are important for the synthesis of pharmaceutical products and for processes in fine chemistry.

Chemistry is a sweet way to detect milk sugars
Aletta Kraneveld (Utrecht University) in collaboration with Jeroen van Bergenhenegouwen (Nutricia Research)
Milk oligosaccharides are unique sugar structures in breast milk. In addition to being ‘food for bugs’ in the intestines, these sugars are also important for the baby’s developing immune system and brain. It is not yet clear exactly how and where these sugars act on cells. The aim of the study is to modify the sugars slightly at the molecular level, without making them dysfunctional. The researchers will subsequently develop chemical methods to demonstrate binding of these sugars to cell surfaces and within cells. Utrecht University and Nutricia will cooperate in this study, and this technique may be used in the future to characterize binding proteins for these special sugars.

Molecules that work together to combat cystic fibrosis
Peter van der Sluijs (Utrecht University) in collaboration with Katja Conrath (Galapagos)
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common hereditary, incurable disease caused by changes in the CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) gene. The CFTR protein in healthy individuals acts at the cell surface, as a channel to transport salt out of cells. The CFTR protein in CF patients is also present at the cell surface, but in a non-functional form. How CFTR and its mutant forms end up at the cell surface will be investigated in this project. Galapagos has developed new substances that remedy the defect in CF, three of which must preferably be used in combination. It is not known how these substances work; however, this knowledge is important for the optimization of treatment. How the new substances act on processes involved in ensuring that CFTR ends up at the cell surface will therefore also be investigated in this project.

Antifreeze for ice-free car windows, inspired by nature
Ilja Voets (Eindhoven University of Technology) in collaboration with Peter Blokpoel (Kemetyl)
It happens every winter – road users have to scrape ice off their car windows since reduced visibility may lead to serious accidents and hefty fines. Windscreen wiper fluid containing antifreeze is very effective but, in its current composition, also includes highly flammable components that are produced from a valuable food source. Inspired by antifreeze proteins from polar fish and bacteria, new building blocks will be developed in this project to make car windows ice-free without harmful consequences for humans or the environment.

New switches to turn on medicine production in soil bacteria
Gilles van Wezel (Leiden University) in collaboration with Menzo Havinga (Batavia Biosciences)
Global demand for medicines is expected to explode over the next few decades. This demands both new medicines and new biotechnological solutions to make the production of medicines from cell lines more efficient. This project will focus on innovative methods for screening filamentous microorganisms for new bioactive natural products that affect the growth of mammalian cell lines. Here, we distinguish between molecules that improve the growth of production cells and those that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This delivers new insights and new technologies for improved screening, as well as new compounds that may help us to develop medicines and to produce them more efficiently.

FerroPhosMoss: new adsorbents for circular use of phosphate
Geert-Jan Witkamp (Delft University of Technology) in collaboration with Leon Korving (Wetsus) and Ronald Koorn (Kemira)
Phosphorus is a nutrient and is essential for our food production. However, phosphorus in the form of phosphate causes problems in the case of hyperfertilisation and when it is discharged into surface water. It is also a problem in industrial water systems, where it stimulates the growth of biological scum, leading to increased maintenance costs and reduced energy efficiency. The current linear use of phosphorus must be converted into circular use. This requires new techniques that not only remove that phosphate, but that also allow it to be easily recovered. Adsorbents based on iron have great potential because they specifically bind phosphate, reducing its concentration to very low levels. The phosphate can subsequently be recovered in a pure form, when the adsorbent is regenerated. In this project, sophisticated Mössbauer spectroscopy will be used to develop iron-based adsorbents that will eliminate existing obstacles to the economic application of these adsorbents.

About LIFT

The Launchpad for Innovative Future Technology (LIFT) is one of the public-private partnership variants funded by the Innovation Fund for Chemistry. LIFT is intended for public-private partnerships comprising at least one company and at least one knowledge institute. Applicants submit a single complete project proposal. However, a LIFT project can be implemented and funded in two phases. In the first phase, the companies’ cash contribution is lower than in the second phase. The total project budget is between €150,000 and €300,000, a quarter of which is paid jointly by the companies and three-quarters by NWO. For more information about the Innovation Fund for Chemistry, see: https://www.nwo.nl/onderzoek-en-resultaten/programmas/innovatiefonds+chemie.

Source: NWO