Selected Projects

Rapid diagnosis of plant pathogens in agriculture based on antibody technologies (AgroGuard)

© Photo Max Schubert/Fraunhofer IME

Plant pathogens cause significant (>20%) yield losses in major crops such as rice and maize during cultivation and post-harvest storage. Current disease and post-harvest control measures are expensive. Chemical fungicides in particular remain a major input cost in agriculture, especially in areas where high humidity and unfavorable weather provide ideal conditions for pathogens. Farmers and growers are motivated to limit the application of chemicals, thus reducing their input costs, but there is also a significant environmental justification and therefore growing pressure from politicians and consumers alike to find environmentally beneficial and sustainable approaches for disease management in agriculture. Therefore the early identification of plant pathogens is essential to ensure that appropriate action can be taken to fight plant pathogens.

Nanoprobe-based drinking water analysis for the rapid detection of biological contamination (AquaNANO)

© Photo Florian Schröper/Fraunhofer IME

The aim of the AquaNANO project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is to develop and establish a novel analytical approach for the rapid and on-site identification of biological contaminants in drinking water. Such a tool would enable aid organizations (such as the German federal agency Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk) responsible for drinking water supplies following major catastrophic events to analyze large quantities of water in a few minutes. The same approach can also be used for routine drinking water analytics, e.g. to detect Legionella contamination in public or private supply systems.

Improved productivity and resource-use efficiency in crop plants (Biomass)

© Photo Greta Nölke/Fraunhofer IME

Optimizing crop yields is one of the major current challenges facing agricultural research. One way to boost productivity is to enhance photosynthetic efficiency, because photosynthetic carbon assimilation is a bottleneck that restricts plant growth.

We have developed a novel approach to enhance resource-use efficiency, promote growth and increase yields in tobacco and potato by introducing a glycolate dehydrogenase multi-subunit fusion protein.

Scan and microdissection platform for high-throughput screening based on a cell-free protein expression system (HTS-Scan)

© Photo Matthias Buntru/Fraunhofer IME

The aim of the project is the development of a new high-throughput screening system based on a recently developed cell-free protein expression platform to accelerate the search for new candidate therapeutic and technical proteins. Fraunhofer IME is responsible for the production of the biological components and the development of an agarose-based thin-layer in vitro transcription-translation (IVTT) system. In cooperation with LightFab, the latest developments in cell-free protein expression and laser material processing will be combined to create a new laser microdissection (LMD) platform for high-throughput screening. This platform will enable both automated and manual screening and the dissection of arbitrarily-shaped and positioned objects at rates of 100–20,000 events per second. 

Innovative technologies to manufacture ground-breaking biopharmaceutical products in microbes and plants (MALARIA)

© Photo Holger Spiegel/Fraunhofer IME

Malaria affects more than two million people and causes more than 600,000 deaths every year, especially in developing countries. The complex, multi-stage life cycle of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum complicates vaccine development but also offers a broad spectrum of potential vaccine candidates. In the context of this project, we are working on the development of novel multi-stage, multi-component malaria vaccine cocktails produced in plants. We identified a potent antigen combination with promising inhibitory potential against all stages of the P. falciparum parasite. To evaluate this new malaria vaccine candidate in initial clinical trials, the candidate antigens are now proceeding towards accelerated GMP-compliant process development to enable their production using the fully-automated and process-controlled vertical farming unit currently being built on the Fraunhofer IME site in Aachen.