05/03/2021 | The show

ACHEMA Start-up Award Finalist: Cenios

Quantitative insight for qualitative improvement

What drug dosage is optimal for the individuum? What is currently being intensively discussed regarding vaccines for children applies to practically every active pharmaceutical ingredient: How much of it an individual needs for optimal effect with minimal side effects depends on a whole range of factors. Cenios aims to contribute to better therapies with its quantitative point-of-care diagnostics.

"Children are not small adults" - this statement from pharmacology has almost become a truism. However, not only the physical stage of development, but also many other factors have an effect on how a drug works in an individuum. Gender, age, weight or even the personal metabolism determine which dose is necessary for an optimal effect. While it may not be a problem with aspirin or a diarrhea medication if it is a little too much or too little, the situation is quite different with cytostatics or antibiotics, which are highly effective but can also have severe side effects.

Personalized medicine thanks to bedside diagnostics

"Personalized medicine" therefore starts long before the individualized drug molecule. At the same time, monitoring a drug level and thus determining the daily dose is very difficult. "Until now, no simple POCT method  for determining the drug level is available for doctor's office currently. In contrast to prescribed protocols we present a new method which can determine the degree of the individual metabolism of the drugs  within 15 minutes directly on site," explain the founders of Cenios Prof. Dr. Angela Hamann, Dr. Mohammad Salehi, Katharina Rudi, Hannes Nölker, Tilman Stüwe and Magd Khalil.  The special feature: in contrast to previously "typical" instant diagnostic methods such as pregnancy or Corona virus tests, the Cenios test kits not only indicate whether a specific substance is present or not, but also provide a quantitative measurement with the aid of a reading device. Until now, this was only possible with time-consuming laboratory tests. " We developed new products with 100 times lower manufacturing costs, which can determine the desired results in a few minutes "on-site".  Our method can reduce waiting times and analysis costs for dosage significantly.," say the founders.  "Our method can be considered in Germany as a quick alternative but this method could be the last hope for personalized dosage in third world countries."

Other potential applications already identified

But the potential applications are not limited to therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM). "Our innovative method can also be used for other laboratories. e.g. for quick and easy monitoring of toxins in food, feed or in water (environmental technology)." And the founders also see other applications in medicine on the horizon: " The production of innovative and inexpensive rapid diagnostics is our long term aim. The qSERS kits for personalized drug dosage are our first marketable products. We hope that our other method for rapid detection of SEPSIS will be marketable as next product very soon."

A diverse team

Behind the development of Cenios is a team of six people found at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. Prof. Angela Hamann is Managing Partner and scientific coordinator. Dr. Mohammad Salehi is a nanodesigner and also Managing Partner. Katharina Rudi, an expert in assay development, is in charge of production management, while Hannes Nölker is responsible for administration and finance. The team is completed by medical engineer Tilman Stüwe as product manager and computer scientist Magd Khalil as software developer. " Nanomedicine is the focus of our team, which consists of a number of elite physicists, chemists, biologists, physicians and engineers.  Due to determination of drug level, we have combined the known technologies from the fields of chemistry, biology, medicine and physics." The university offers the founders the opportunity to work on the development of new methods, prototypes as well as their production scale-up.

Need for explanation differs by target group

In the process, the six have already discovered that the need to explain their product varies greatly depending on the addressee. " It is often difficult to convince different experts to use new technologies. It can be difficult and time-consuming. In order to realize the production, both scientific and economic questions must be clarified." While the patenting process and convincing the natural scientists has been easier than expected - even if this process also took time - potential investors attach importance to other aspects: "The scientific advances are usually insignificant for economists, who want to check the sales achieved at first. This becomes particularly problematic, if the products cannot be sold without medical certification in Germany."

Looking for partnerships

But the founders are not discouraged by such hurdles, not lease as behind they are motivated both by personal and idealistic conviction: "Apart from financial interest, we would like to offer our employees an interesting, satisfying and worthwhile job. We believe that our technology can also improve the quality of life of all people in the world. Thus, we have made POCT our mission in life. As scientists and business people, we can achieve a fair balance between morality and profit." That's why they haven't responded to purchase offers or interest in acquiring the technology so far. As an early-stage startup, however, they are otherwise happy to receive any help and support, and to that end they also want to take advantage of the opportunities that ACHEMA Pulse and ACHEMA offer them to expand their network and bring in additional expertise. "We are looking for investors, distributors and industrial cooperation partners or manufacturers. Such collaborations lead to fast manufacturing, certify and marketing of our products.”

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