Infection research with light: A cutting-edge research centre for market-ready solutions in the fight against infections is being established in Jena
BMBF State Secretary Prof. Sabine Döring and Thuringian Minister of Economics Wolfgang Tiefensee visited the Leibniz Centre for Photonics in Infection Research
Light-based technologies offer enormous potential to combat infectious diseases more effectively and to better manage future pandemics. Today, it takes a lot of time before findings from the laboratory become a new drug or therapy. With the Leibniz Centre for Photonics in Infection Research (LPI), a research infrastructure is being created in Jena that will close this gap between basic research, clinical practice and product development so that research findings reach people more quickly. On November 7, 2023, Prof. Dr. Sabine Döring, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and Thuringia’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society, Wolfgang Tiefensee, were informed about the status of the development of the globally unique infrastructure for translational research at Jena University Hospital (Universitätsklinikum Jena, UKJ).
Technological processes that use light as a tool could fundamentally transform the diagnosis of infectious diseases. They measure quickly, sensitively and without contact. In combination with artificial intelligence, they provide a decisive time advantage in the treatment of life-threatening infections and enable customized therapies.
In order to advance the development of these light-based, specifically photonic processes, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing an infrastructure in the form of the Leibniz Centre for Photonics in Infection Research (LPI) in Jena, in which the translation of research results into marketable products – the path from the laboratory to the hospital bed – is considered right from the start and driven forward in a standardized process chain. The LPI is initiated by the Jena Leibniz Institutes of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) and Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (Leibniz HKI), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Jena University Hospital.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Science Wolfgang Tiefensee sees the Leibniz Centre as an important building block for further profiling Thuringia and in particular the „Optical Valley Jena“ in the field of optical health technologies. He assured the institution of the state’s full support. „The LPI brings together important Thuringian fields of expertise in photonics and infection research. The combination of photonic technologies, basic microbiological research and clinical application is a truly unique selling point of the location. This allows better active substances and methods to be developed to combat pandemics, infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance.“ The most important objective of the LPI is to quickly transfer research results into practice and thus drastically shorten the development times of new drugs and therapies, the Minister added. „In this way, the centre also provides impetus for more growth and employment in the healthcare industry and ultimately contributes to maintaining Germany’s technological sovereignty in drug development and infection research.“
During her visit to the University Hospital in Jena, BMBF State Secretary Prof. Dr. Sabine Döring was impressed by the innovative diagnostic procedures being researched at the LPI and by the concept of the centre as a place where ideas for the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases with light can be developed in the future and rapidly brought to market maturity.
The LPI is more than a research institute. As a one-stop agency, it combines research, technology development and everyday clinical practice, providing an infrastructure in which all the steps necessary for product development work together – from validation on patient samples to support in product design and small series production. The facility is open to the national and international scientific community and will also enable small and medium-sized companies as well ast start-ups to achieve valid results faster. Industry and public authorities will be involved right from the start to ensure the smooth market entry of new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic approaches.
„The LPI starts where promising results from research and technology development often threaten to fail: on the way from the laboratory to medical care,“ explains Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp, scientific director at Leibniz IPHT and spokesperson for the LPI. „The LPI is pioneering: for better prevention and therapies of patients – and for a fundamental change in the transfer of knowledge from research to society. With its globally unique infrastructure, the LPI can become a lighthouse project for infection research, whose approach can be transferred to other scientific and medical fields of application.“
Decisive for the success of the holistic concept is the close connection between the LPI and the University Hospital Jena. Equipped with S2/S3 security laboratories, the LPI building on the UKJ site will provide users access to the latest innovations in photonics – the basic technologies being researched as part of the project – as well as the latest commercial optical and molecular technologies.
In addition, the LPI will provide a fundamentally new infrastructure in the intensive care unit with a first-in-patient unit (FiPU). This will offer patients with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to take advantage of life-saving solutions that are still being researched and tested on the market. The design planning for the FiPU is currently underway; the conversion work is scheduled to begin in early 2024. „With this study station, the LPI will take clinical infection research in Germany to a new level,“ emphasizes Prof. Dr. Thomas Kamradt, Scientific Director of the UKJ and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. „From the very beginning, the research and development teams at the LPI are in close contact with clinical practice, whose high standards must ultimately be used to measure medical innovations.“
Parallel to the development of the technological infrastructure and the establishment of new spectral-optical imaging technologies and chip-based methods, the management and governance structures of the LPI are currently being created and the preliminary planning for the construction is being driven forward. The owner is the Jena University Hospital.
The Leibniz Centre for Photonics in Infection Research Jena (LPI)
The LPI is a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures. Its mission is to accelerate the development of market-ready photonic solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. LPI’s supporting institutions are the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT), the Leibniz Institute for Natural Products and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz HKI), Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Jena University Hospital. More than 100 scientists are currently working on five joint projects that will form the LPI’s basic technological equipment in the future.
In the picture:
The construction site of the LPI on the grounds of Jena University Hospital. In the picture, from left: Ulrike Geiger (Head of Division at BMBF), Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp (Scientific Director at Leibniz IPHT and LPI spokesperson), BMBF State Secretary Prof. Dr. Sabine Döring, Dr. Brunhilde Seidel-Kwem (Commercial Director at UKJ), Prof. Dr. Thomas Kamradt (Scientific Director at UKJ and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine), Prof. Dr Ilse Jacobsen (Deputy Scientific Director at Leibniz HKI), Lydia Dittmeier-Keil (Architect and Head of the New Building Division at UKJ). ©Michael Szabó/UKJ
In the picture:
Prof. Dr. Bettina Löffler, Head of the Institute of Medical Microbiology at the UKJ (1st from right) and LPI spokesperson Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp (Scientific Director at Leibniz IPHT, 3rd from left) present a laboratory in the Medical Microbiology Department at UKJ to BMBF State Secretary Prof. Dr. Sabine Döring (2nd from right) and Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (1st from left). Also in the picture, from left: Prof. Dr. Thomas Kamradt (Scientific Director of UKJ and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, 2nd from left), Ulrike Geiger (Head of Division at BMBF) and Dr. Brunhilde Seidel-Kwem (Commercial Director at UKJ). ©Michael Szabó/UKJ
In the picture:
LPI spokesperson Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp (2nd from right) presents the LPI laboratory in the Medical Microbiology Department at the UKJ to BMBF State Secretary Prof. Dr. Sabine Döring (4th from right) and Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (3rd from right). Left and right are LPI scientists Marie-Luise Enghardt (r.) and Dr. Richard Gros (l.). ©Michael Szabó/UKJ
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