The German-Australian iCAIR® project

"Fraunhofer vs. Corona": iCAIR® project enhanced to include coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

© Fraunhofer ITEM
Prof. Armin Braun and Prof. Mark von Itzstein

In the iCAIR® project, Fraunhofer ITEM is collaborating with partners – Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics (IfG) in Australia, the Institute for Clinical Biochemistry at the Hannover Medical School (MHH), and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) – to develop new, urgently needed agents against infectious diseases that are gaining ground worldwide. In their development of novel anti-infectives, they go all the way from the identification of potentially beneficial substances to the preclinical proof of concept. In view of the corona pandemic, the project has been enhanced to include the search for an effective drug against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Christoph Neubert, manager of a Fraunhofer-program, interviewed iCAIR® coordinator, Prof. Armin Braun of Fraunhofer ITEM in Hannover and project manager Prof. Mark von Itzstein of Griffith University in Australia, about their research activities and how they are facing the challenge of finding an effective drug.

iCAIR® project: battling infection and resistance

These days, even a “simple” infection can become a deadly threat again. Bacteria keep developing new resistances to antibiotics, presenting the international medical community with a significant problem. There is a desperate need for new medications. The biggest hurdle in developing these new medications is getting them from the laboratory into clinical trials, bridging the gap from the discovery of new agents to their development by the pharmaceutical industry into potential medications. In the project iCAIR® (Fraunhofer International Consortium for Anti-Infective Research), researchers from Fraunhofer ITEM, the Hannover Medical SchoolHelmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, and Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics in Gold Coast, Australia, have teamed up to close this gap.

The "Valley of death" in drug development

Project iCAIR: the valley of death in drug development
© Fraunhofer ITEM

iCAIR® is establishing its position as an expert preclinical development platform for new anti-infective drugs

iCAIR® contributes to filling the empty pipelines in anti-infective drug development to address the current global threat of antimicrobial resistance and new infectious diseases.

As a close-knit research alliance, iCAIR® is working on the development of anti-infective therapies that take new treatment options all the way from the identification of potentially beneficial substances to the preclinical proof of concept. In selected lighthouse projects, iCAIR® is establishing and demonstrating its position as an expert preclinical development platform for new anti-infective drugs. One objective of these projects is to target new treatments to combat the pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aspergillus fumigatus, Neisseria meningitidis, different respiratory viruses such as the human parainfluenza and influenza viruses, RSV, and corona viruses, and develop these treatments to the point of preclinical proof of concept.

The development platform established in the iCAIR® project will be made available to external partners in addition to its use in proprietary projects. This is geared towards contract research in the pharmaceutical industry as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and publicly funded projects. iCAIR® thereby enables them to develop their early-stage compounds to the stage of preclinical proof of concept ready to go into regulatory development for market approval or, depending on the business model, out-licensing to big pharmaceutical players. Either way, iCAIR® contributes to filling the empty pipelines in anti-infective drug development to address the current global threat of antimicrobial resistance and new infectious diseases.

Overview of expertise in the iCAIR® consortium

Overview of expertise in the iCAIR® consortium
© Fraunhofer ITEM
Four strong iCAIR® partners – Institute for Glycomics, Hannover Medical School, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, and Fraunhofer ITEM – set out to collaborate in infection research: they have joined forces to develop novel anti-infective drugs – from target identification via hit-to-lead to proof-of-concept studies.

Pooled expertise against deadly pathogens

Thanks to the pooled expertise of the four partners, the iCAIR® consortium is in a position to identify completely new active agents against relevant and often deadly pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Aspergillus fumigatus and to develop them to candidate drugs. Another strategy will be to identify new compounds that are effective against known viral targets such as hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) and neuraminidase (NA). These are highly relevant in the progression of human parainfluenza virus and influenza infections. iCAIR® will use selected lighthouse projects to establish and demonstrate its position as an expert preclinical development platform for new anti-infective drugs. Working on these lighthouse projects, the partners will set up their common structures. The aim is to demonstrate the pooled expertise of the iCAIR® consortium – from target identification to the preclinical proof of concept – by way of new candidate drugs.

Fraunhofer ITEM expertise

Fraunhofer ITEM has developed excellent systems for pharmacological and toxicological testing of novel drug candidates, ranging from in-vitro cell culture models via ex-vivo models based on tissues and organs from different species to in-vivo models. The models can be configured so as to mimic inhaled administration of active pharmaceutical ingredients to the lung as the target organ. Insights into the metabolization, toxicity, and efficacy of the drug and into the route of administration are thus enabled. Fraunhofer ITEM is pursuing an approach based on the 3 Rs and aimed at high predictivity of the developed test systems.

Fraunhofer ITEM has safety level 2 labs and a GXP platform.

For downstream development steps, we furthermore have access to clinical expertise, on inhaled antibiotics for COPD patients in particular.

Overview of our infection models
© Fraunhofer ITEM
Overview of our infection models (please do not hesitate to contact us for other infection models).

Benefits for external project partners and companies

Knowledge-based, directed drug design

 

iCAIR® meets the public demand for urgently needed novel anti-infectives by disrupting the current health paradigms in anti-infective R&D: developing drugs in a unique manner using knowledge-based, directed drug design.

Provide drug candidates in a one-stop-shop concept

 

iCAIR® covers the fully integrated drug development chain from ideas or concepts, target identification and hit-to-lead to the non-clinical proof-of-concept to provide drug candidates in a one-stop-shop concept.

Bridging the gap between basic research and regulatory development

iCAIR® specifically caters to offer its fully integrated drug development platform towards academic groups, spin-offs, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), thereby bridging the gap between basic research and regulatory development in the currently transforming R&D environment.

Your contacts for the iCAIR® project

Armin Braun

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr. Armin Braun

Division Director of Preclinical Pharmacology and Toxicology

Phone +49 511 5350-263

Jana Führing

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Jana Führing

iCAIR Site Manager Hannover

Phone +49 511 5350-202