Background and History

Immunological Research in Mainz

The immunological research of the University Medical Center at Johannes Gutenberg University has enjoyed international renown for over 30 years. Interdisciplinary collaboration between basic science and clinical institutes is close and well-established. Cutting-edge research and applied studies are combined to elucidate immune mechanisms of disease and to modulate immunity in autoimmune diseases, allergy, cancer and infectious diseases. Our research laboratories are state-of-the-art, with modern core facilities and an optimized study infrastructure for early and late stage clinical trials.

Translating scientific concepts into clinical applications is a major contemporary challenge in medical health care. Expiring patents, empty pipelines and the increasing complexity of product development in an emerging era of individualized medicine mean that even large pharmaceutical companies are not able to address these challenges alone. At the same time, increasing regulatory requirements and costs have seen public research institutions virtually suspend the clinical translation of new scientific insight. Here in Mainz, we believe mastering these challenges is possible through cooperation between first-rate research institutes and private companies specializing in innovative product development.

Over the last few years, local innovations have led to a number of regional spin-off companies, several of which are among Germany’s leading biotech start-ups. Funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, the regional cluster of excellence Ci3 Cluster of IndividualizedImmunoIntervention has extended the already established collaborative structures in Mainz by bringing together the skills and know-how of research institutions, medical centers, biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies in the entire Rhein-Main area. The local University Center for Tumor Diseases (UCT) in Mainz connects all available cancer research and treatment institutes, from basic research to clinical and epidemiological studies. Moreover, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT), an internationally leading research communication platform, is promoting national and international networking by facilitating exchange between cancer researchers, regulatory experts and academic and private enterprise decision-makers to advance cancer immunotherapy.

The future of drug development lies in combining basic and clinical research with commercial development. Interweaving the research and development of different stakeholders will expedite the development process and maximize the bidirectional flow of insight between basic research and the clinical testing of new treatment modalities. Although managing the interface between scientific and technological innovation and traditional product development is complex and multi-layered, it is also one of the key requirements for the success of such a public-private partnership.

Several years in the planning, TRON gGmbH was founded in 2010 as a not-for-profit limited liability company to address current challenges in treatment development by interfacing between public and private stakeholders and bridging the gap between scientific ideas and mature product development. Its founding partners are the state Rhineland-Palatinate, the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the University Medical Center Mainz and Prof. Ugur Sahin, TRON’s scientific founder who was also appointed Managing Director. (http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/35054.php) Prof. Christoph Huber, former director of the 3rd Medical Department at the University Medical Center Mainz has made significant contributions to the founding of TRON, and continues to advise the organization in its goals.

In July 2011, Michael Föhlings joined TRON as Managing Director Administration and Finance.

In May 2010, TRON moved into a newly built research building on the campus of the University Medical Center Mainz. Today we are located nearby at the Technologiezentrum Mainz, facilitating close interaction with local basic researchers and clinical scientists. Its laboratories were equipped with cutting-edge instrumentation including the next-generation sequencing platform (http://www.uni-mainz.de/eng/13602.php). Within a year, the entire administrative structure was assembled, an interdisciplinary team of more than 50 scientists and technicians was recruited and technology platforms and research units were established.