Dr. Paul Scholz and VAAM President Prof. Dr. Stefan Pelzer in an auditorium of the Georg-August-University in Göttingen
© Stoeriko/VAAM
18 September 2023

VAAM Innovation Award for discovery of novel CRISPR nuclease family

Dr. Paul Scholz has received the 2023 VAAM Innovation Award for discovering a novel CRISPR nuclease family.

Our colleague Dr Paul Scholz was awarded the prestigious VAAM Innovation Award 2023 at the annual meeting of the Association for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM). The bioinformatician and head of genome editing development in BRAIN Biotech's Akribion Genomics team received the award for his groundbreaking research on a novel family of CRISPR nucleases. Thanks to their targeted and programmable mechanism of action, these nucleases have immense potential for therapeutic applications, including the targeted killing of cells, e.g. in tumors.

Targeted destruction of cancer cells with G-dase E

Together with his team of scientists, Paul has been able to demonstrate highly efficient genome editing in various organisms and cell types, including bacteria and mammalian cells. Among other things, the bioinformatics graduate discovered a nuclease called G-dase E® and described its enzymatic mechanism, which differs from that of previously known CRISPR systems: after detecting changes in the transcriptome of the treated cells, the patent-pending G-dase E® destroys their entire DNA and RNA, resulting in the immediate death of the cell.

G-dase-E® thus offers a new approach to solving a wide range of medical problems, e.g. in the treatment of cancer. Paul and the team at Akribion Genomics have set themselves the goal of making this groundbreaking technology usable for the development of therapeutics. The spin-off and further financing of Akribion Genomics into a separate subsidiary is currently in preparation.

Jury recognizes scientific excellence and application potential

The VAAM awards the VAAM Innovation Award every two years to strengthen microbiological research in the industry. In its statement, the jury emphasised in particular Paul's expertise in the fields of bioinformatics, protein engineering and cell physiology, as the new nucleases can also be used in microorganisms commonly used in industry. The jury was impressed not only by Paul's scientific excellence, as evidenced by his publications and patents, but also by the high application potential of his research: "Paul Scholz has pursued and implemented this comprehensive development in a targeted manner," said VAAM President Prof. Dr. Stefan Pelzer in his laudation. Pelzer continued: "The innovation is not only scientifically, but also economically promising, as the planned spin-off proves".

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