Yearbook 2021: Max Planck Innovation – the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society

BiondVax Pharmaceuticals is developing a new COVID-19 antibody therapy based on research results from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, among others (© Benedikt/AdobeStock)

Max Planck Innovation evaluates an average of 130 inventions per year, about half of which lead to a patent application. Since 1979, more than 4,700 inventions have been accompanied and around 2,850 exploitation agreements concluded. Since the early 1990s, 170 spin-off companies have emerged from the Max Planck Society (MPG), the vast majority of which have been actively supported by Max Planck Innovation. Around 8,200 jobs have been created in these spin-offs since then. Since 1979, a total turnover from licenses and the sale of participations of more than 530 million euros has been achieved.

In 2021, 142 inventions were reported to Max Planck Innovation, 120 patents were registered and 78 contracts were concluded, including 51 exploitation contracts. The proceeds from the exploitation of licenses and the sale of participations are expected to be around EUR 20 million. The final figures for the 2021 financial year will not be available until mid-2022 due to the subsequent settlement of various licensees.

In 2021, a total of five MPG companies were spun off, most of which were supported by Max Planck Innovation in different phases of their company foundation. In 2021, the MPG took a new stake in five spin-offs. In addition, spin-offs with MPG participation or revenue sharing have raised a total investment sum of around 100 million euros in 2021.


New COVID-19 antibody therapy on the way

BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (Nasdaq: BVXV) signed agreements with the Max Planck Society (MPG) and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) to enter into a strategic collaboration for the development and commercialization of innovative COVID-19 nanosized antibodies (NanoAbs), also known as VHH-antibodies.

The lead NanoAb candidates for the COVID-19 program, developed at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biophysical Chemistry and the UMG, exhibit a strong competitive edge over existing COVID-19 therapies. For example, the NanoAbs exhibit superior affinity to the target, neutralizing the SARS-COV-2 virus, in-vitro, at drug concentrations about 100-times lower than those required by currently commercially available monoclonal antibodies. This may lead to increased efficacy, reduced side effects, and allow production at a lower cost. In addition, the NanoAbs’ small size and hyper-thermostability at 95°C (200°F) potentially enables administration through inhalation and longer shelf life, and potentially avoids the need for enhanced cold chain storage and transport.

The NanoAbs have demonstrated strong neutralization at very low concentrations of major Variants of Concern (VoCs) including Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta in in-vitro studies and based on in-silico studies, are expected to neutralize Omicron. Given the potential of additional emerging VoCs, the BiondVax-MPG-UMG collaboration covers development of new NanoAbs as needed during the evolution of COVID-19. The methodologies employed by the MPI and UMG labs enable generation of new NanoAb candidates within weeks of acquiring the sequence for any emerging variant, and thereby positions BiondVax to stay at the forefront of COVID-19 preparedness. BiondVax anticipates conducting COVID-19 NanoAb preclinical studies in 2022 with initial human clinical trials results in 2023.

In addition to the COVID-19 NanoAb collaboration BiondVax, MPG and UMG have signed a term-sheet for development of NanoAbs towards other indications with major opportunities in key therapeutic areas of psoriasis, asthma, macular degeneration, and psoriatic arthritis. These are all diseases with known and validated antibody drug targets (thereby shortening development timelines and lowering risk), and where the NanoAb advantages have the potential to capture significant market share. BiondVax anticipates finalizing the collaboration agreements for these additional NanoAbs in February 2022.


License agreements

In 2021, 51 exploitation contracts were concluded. In this way, inventions, some of which have significant market potential, were licensed to industry for further development.

Corona infections can be contained indoors with a new technology in the future. A team from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS) has designed a room air purifier that removes virus-contaminated lung aerosol particles from the air flowing through it. On the basis of a license, the company InoxAir® has developed a device called AEROsorp®, which is significantly cheaper and quieter than conventional room air filters. The device circulates up to 1650 cubic meters of room air per hour and thus ensures eight times the air exchange in a typical classroom with a size of 190 cubic meters. The AEROsorp® allows the use of conventional, inexpensive fine dust filters and, due to its design, generates the necessary air volume flow with lower pressure and lower performance. The device is particularly quiet and energy-saving. The cleaned air is evenly distributed throughout the room without creating an unpleasant draft. The AEROsorp® is already being used successfully in numerous facilities such as schools and universities.

In 2021, the spin-off Meshcapade licensed further technologies from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems for the creation of realistic digital 3D human bodies. A new technology called SMPLify-X makes it possible to create avatars of people from a single image that have facial expressions, subtle gestures and realistic movement patterns. The technology has great application potential, especially in the fashion, gaming and film industries.
Realistic 3D infant avatars can be created using SMIL (Skinned Multi-Infant Linear Model) technology to enable 3D baby motion detection. The measurement of the spontaneous activity of infants allows the automated detection of pathological spontaneous motor functions based on machine learning algorithms. The automated, inexpensive and easy-to-use screening using SMIL opens up completely new possibilities for the early detection of developmental disorders as part of pediatric preventive care.

The company Delmic Cryo B.V. and Max Planck Innovation have entered into a license agreement for the production and distribution of cryo workflow tools invented and developed at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology in Dortmund. The new tools are used in cryo-electron tomography, which enables high-resolution 3D views of biological samples such as large macromolecules. This powerful tool thus offers even deeper insights into the cell structure than conventional light microscopy. The cryo workflow tools reduce ice contamination, which is a common problem in the cryo-electron tomography workflow. The new product called "Delmic CERES Ice Defense System" was also launched in 2021. It will help improve access to cryo-electron tomography and simplify the acquisition of new knowledge in the life sciences.

There is now new hope for patients with open wounds: The plasma care® products from the medical technology company terraplasma medical GmbH kill fungi, viruses and bacteria - including those that are largely resistant to antibiotics - in chronic as well as acute wounds without damaging skin tissue. After market approval, the mobile, battery-powered devices in pocket format, which are suitable for inpatient and outpatient treatment, are now also being marketed by Viromed, making them accessible to millions of patients. At the end of 2021, Viromed Plasma GmbH acquired a majority stake in tp medical GmbH. The technology of the devices is based on a license for research results from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.


Spin-off companies

In the future, the immune system could be stimulated particularly effectively via the skin. Cutanos GmbH, a spin-off of the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, has developed a corresponding method for modulating immune cells in the skin. For the first time, LC-TDS technology (Langerhans Cell Targeted Delivery System) makes it possible to supply only a very specific type of immune cell, namely the Langerhans cells that are predominantly located in the skin, with antigens in order to trigger a controlled immune reaction. It uses the fact that bacteria and viruses are recognized by different cells of the immune system via antigens. A ligand artificially produced at the MPI, which only binds to the Langerhans cell-specific receptor Langerin, is the core of the LC-TDS technology and offers exclusive access to these immune cells. In addition to the ligand, the modular system also includes a transport system (vehicle) and the active ingredients or antigens (cargo) to be delivered. The start-up, founded in Vienna in January 2021, has concluded an exclusive license for the process with the Max Planck Society and is now developing innovative immunotherapies on this basis.

Transporting people more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way – this is the intention behind the newly founded EcoBus GmbH. The company, founded in 2021, wants to achieve this goal by bundling passenger inquiries. The basis for this is a software that combines small shuttles with existing scheduled services into an overall system and takes passengers from door to door at the local public transport tariff. The digitization of local and long-distance passenger transport plays an important role in relieving the transport infrastructure and reducing CO2 emissions. The offer from EcoBus GmbH significantly increases the efficiency of passenger transport and at the same time makes it more comfortable for users. Ecobus offers its services to all mobility providers and wants to make longer trips possible in addition to booking regional trips. The software developed at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen together with stakeholders in public transport is now being brought to market maturity and marketed as part of the spin-off.

Epiray, a spin-off company from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, develops, produces and sells devices based on a novel process for producing thin layers in the context of epitaxy. Thermal Laser Epitaxy (TLE) is a physical vapor deposition technique. It allows to heat elements with laser beams and to thermally vaporize the source material. Since the laser beams can be produced with almost any power density, extremely high temperatures are possible. This allows the vaporization of practically all elements of the periodic table. In addition, the direct local heating by the laser ensures that only the surfaces to be vaporized are heated and contamination is avoided. In this way, high-purity thin layers can be produced on substrates, which are used in the semiconductor and solar cell industries, among others.

With the purchase of The Captury, DARI Motion Inc. secures the innovative technology basis on which its products for motion analysis in the sports and health sector are based. The Captury GmbH has developed a new motion capture technology that is used by numerous companies in the entertainment, sports and medical sectors. Motion capture methods enable movements to be captured and recorded. The recorded data can be played back, analyzed and further processed by computers. The technique is often used in films to bring animated characters to life. In sports and medicine, this form of motion analysis is often used to examine and optimize motion sequences, or to treat illnesses or the consequences of operations. The process of the company, which is a spin-off from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, can record human movements very quickly and realistically and does not require the markers that are otherwise commonly used. The Captury will continue to exist as an independent company, maintain or even expand the location in Saarbrücken and market its products.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE and TASE: TEVA) and MPG spin-off MODAG GmbH have entered into a strategic collaboration for the exclusive worldwide licensing and development of MODAG's lead compound, anle138b, and a related compound, sery433. These substances have been developed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen in cooperation with the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Anle138b targets pathological alpha-synuclein oligomers and is being studied for potential disease modification in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Under the terms of the agreement and pending regulatory approval, Teva will have an exclusive worldwide license to develop, manufacture and commercialize anle138b and sery433. The companies will jointly develop compounds for the indications of multiple system atrophy (MSA) and Parkinson's disease (PD) based on early-stage clinical trials and will consider exploring additional indications based on clinical results. The agreement expands Teva's early-stage pipeline with a promising new compound as a potential treatment for rare diseases.

In order to be able to better exploit the spin-off potential in the MPG, preparatory activities for a new entrepreneurship initiative were launched in 2021. The MAXpreneurs initiative aims to make MPG researchers more aware of the topic of entrepreneurship, to strengthen the start-up culture in the MPG, to identify, motivate and intensively support more people interested in founding a company. In addition to Max Planck Innovation, the Planck Academy and the Max Planck Foundation are also involved in the MAXpreneurs initiative. A central element of the initiative is "MAX!mize", an incubation program currently being set up by MI, which will be available to those interested in founding a company from 2022. A first test run with a total of 5 founding teams from the MPG in cooperation with the Fraunhofer AHEAD program has already been successfully carried out, the official start is planned for May 2022.



A few years ago, Max Planck Innovation set up various incubators to validate inventions and know-how in an industry-compatible manner and to generate additional data in order to bring them closer to industry and the market.

The Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC), Novo Nordisk and the Heidelberg University Hospital have entered into a collaboration to develop a new therapy for heart failure. The cardiac Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII) plays a central role in maladaptive processes in the diseased heart. Using an innovative strategy, the partners want to develop a new class of CaMKII modulators that block undesired effects of CaMKII while maintaining their physiological function.
In addition, the LDC has signed a collaboration agreement with Cumulus Oncology to jointly accelerate the discovery and development of new cancer therapies. The collaboration builds on the complementary expertise of both partners: the LDC brings its impressive track record in drug development and its team, which has the necessary skills to develop new drugs for various oncology targets. Cumulus Oncology brings together a team of successful life science founders who have successfully translated numerous oncology projects into practice, as well as scientific experts, oncologists and specialists from the pharmaceutical sector.

InfanDx AG, formerly incubated at the Life Science Incubator (LSI) and spun off there, has completed series A financing. The company raised EUR 4 million to achieve important value-adding milestones within the next 12-18 months. The neonatal diagnostics company develops and markets a new type of diagnostic procedure for examining newborns.
The spin-off Tranquil Immune focuses on the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease. These diseases are characterized by the fact that a misdirected T-cell activity leads to inflammatory reactions and thus to a worsening of the disease, usually in phases. For the first time, so-called T-cell silencers could stop this reaction biologically, immediately, within a few minutes and without side effects for the patient, thus revolutionizing the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Together with the LSI, the inventors now want to advance the development of this technology platform as part of the newly founded biotech start-up.

In 2021, three companies were founded after successful incubation at the IT incubator: PL Digital GmbH wants to simplify knowledge transfer. PL Digital's software provides researchers and their associated organizations with a suite of tools to efficiently and visibly share their research across channels, enabling seamless collaboration.
Another spin-off is Elexir AG. Elexir is a high-tech vehicle architecture with a disruptive platform business model designed to make cars software-defined. The concept allows functions to be changed while the vehicle is in use without impairing other safety-critical functions. Customers should be able to easily book the extras and functions they need via app or subscription.
Green Tree Farming GmbH has specialized in vertical indoor farming. The team around the new company wants to place fresh and healthy products in restaurants and food retailers in a sustainable manner and without long delivery routes. The concept also includes an intelligent control system for the vertical indoor farming systems in order to automate and optimize the production of plants.

About Max Planck Innovation

As the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Innovation is the link between industry and basic research. With our interdisciplinary team, we advise and support scientists at the Max Planck Institutes in evaluating inventions, filing patents and starting businesses. We offer industry central access to the innovations of the Max Planck Institutes. We are therefore fulfilling an important task: The transfer of results from basic research into commercially and socially useful products.

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