K.H. Eberle-Innovation Award for Tübingen Research Project

The K.H. Eberle Foundation award was granted for the first time at the University Tübingen – The award goes to natural scientists and physicians developing alternative methods in animal research

For the first time, the Dr. Ing. K. H. Eberle Foundation awarded a prize for innovative research at the University Tübingen. (Left to right) Georg Freiherr von Schönau, Dr. Alexandra Zoller, Prof. Dr. Bernd Pichler, Prof. Dr. Bernd Engler, Dr. Peter Unmüßig, Hansjörg Abt, Prof. Dr. Peter Grathwohl, Thomas Schwind. Photos: University Tübingen / Friedhelm Albrecht

The Dr. K. H. Eberle Innovation Prize was awarded for the first time on Thursday at the University of Tübingen: The award went to Professor Robert Feil and Dr. Ing. Susanne Feil (Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry) and Professor Bernd Pichler (Werner Siemens Imaging Center) for the development of alternative methods for animal experiments. The prize, endowed with € 300,000, will be awarded annually by the Dr. Ing. Karl Helmut Eberle Foundation to scientists in Tübingen, who deal with urgent questions of the future and whose work stands for a high innovation potential.

In the award-winning project "Non-Invasive Visualization and Tracking of Specific Cell Populations Using Positron Emission Tomography", scientists and physicians are collaborating to develop new methods of research into diseases such as Alzheimer's and Diabetes that require fewer, less burden for the animals while delivering results translatable into the clinical routine.

The molecular understanding of disease progression plays a major role in the development of new therapies. Therefore, the winners developed the so-called "PET-based cell tracking" to non-invasively visualize cells in mice. In this case, an artificial PET reporter enzyme can be imaged in each cell type of the mouse and vizualized by use of a radioactive substance, the so-called PET tracer accumulating in the selected cells. The radiation, which is harmless for the animal, can be made visible on the screen - a benefit of modern imaging techniques. Marked cells can be followed for weeks in living mice.

Dr. Ingmar Hoerr, CEO of CureVac AG, giving the keynote lecture.

First experiments had already shown the potential of the method to refine and reduce animal experiments (press release of the University Tübingen on the Nature publication). Now the scientists want to evaluate the reproducibility and applicability in different cell populations. They hope for new experimental approaches and applications in biomedical basic research as well as in the investigation of disease-related issues.

„Wir sehen in dem Projekt mehr als nur eine überzeugende Forschungsarbeit. Der Ansatz zu einer signifikanten Reduktion des Einsatzes von Versuchstieren zu Forschungszwecken ist auch ein wichtiger Beitrag zu ethischen Fragen in der Wissenschaft“, said Foundation chairman Foundation  Thomas Schwind. „Auch die praktische Bedeutung der Forschungsarbeiten gerade bei häufigen Krankheiten wie Diabetes, Alzheimer oder Krebs war ein wichtiger Punkt für unsere Entscheidung“, emphasized board member Dr. Alexandra Zoller. 

The Dr. Karl Helmut Eberle Foundation, based in Lörrach, Baden-Württemberg, was founded on the assets of the entrepreneur Dr. Karl Helmut Eberle, who died in November 2015 at the age of 88 years. He studied medicine at the University of Tübingen, but went early into the real estate industry. In the future she will be involved in research and innovation funding at the University of Tübingen as well as at the University of Konstanz and the Cooperative State University Lörrach.