SPARK-BIH

Due to high development costs and the lack of intellectual property protection, many inventions in the life sciences do not make it into clinical practice. NeuroCure collaborates with the SPARK-BIH-Programm to overcome such hurdles—especially when it comes to neurological and psychiatric diseases.

SPARK-BIH was launched in 2014 by two NeuroCure members — Prof. Dr. Craig Garner and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Dirnagl — and aims to advance the process by which research findings are transformed into developing concrete diagnostic procedures, medical devices, and active substances. The program, which was originally developed at Stanford University (USA), helps scientists find ways of putting their research projects into practice.

A SPARK working group has been established within NeuroCure to advise and support NeuroCure scientists on projects that could potentially lead to clinically relevant neuroscientific therapies, diagnoses, and devices.

This is done primarily through:

  • offering regular advanced training (with a focus on translation)
  • close collaboration with a large network of advisors (including experts on basic research, industry, and pertinent regulatory aspects)
  • consulting services and collaboration to ensure application-oriented project development
  • and project-related, milestone-based financial support.

As part of the first call in 2020, the following four projects from the cluster have been selected to receive funding and mentoring from NeuroCure/SPARK-BIH:

Team NEMATIS (Neuronal Mapping using Transcranial Magnetic Temporal Interference Stimulation) — with Khaled Nasr, Prof. Dr. Surjo Soekadar and Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Heinz — is developing a medical device that will enable non-invasive, precise stimulation capable of reaching deeper areas of the brain.

Prof. Dr. Volker Haucke’s project XL-MyoCure (Novel therapy for neuromuscular disease caused by mutations in myotubularins), is to develop a new pharmacological therapy for a rare neuromuscular disease (XLMTM: X-linked myotubularmyopathy). Patients affected by this disease suffer from muscle weakness and are dependent on a wheelchair, artificial nutrition, and ventilators. Though the disease is often lethal, there are currently no treatment options.

The iPSC-SYNGAP team (Prof. Dr. Dietmar Schmitz, Prof. Dr. Markus Schülke-Gerstenfeld, Prof. Dr. Sarah Shoichet, Dr. Nils Rademacher, and Judith von Sivers) is developing a new treatment for patients with SYNGAP syndrome — a genetic disease in which patients can suffer up to 140 epileptic seizures per day. The goal of this project is to build the screening platform that the team has developed to find a pharmacological treatment. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from patients will also be used to verify efficacy.

The aim of BENEFIT (Biomarkers for tumor immune therapy associated neurological side effects) — with Prof. Dr. Matthias Endres, PD Dr. Wolfgang Böhmerle, Dr. Samuel Knauß and Dr. Leonie Müller-Jensen — is to identify biomarkers for the occurrence of neuronal side effects in immune checkpoint inhibitor cancer therapy. A targeted diagnosis can improve treatment and prevent potentially fatal disease progression.

Contact: Alexander Stumpf