Faculty of Natural Sciences Faculty of Natural Sciences News and events
Antibodies from Diatoms: Company Spin-Off Develops Pregnancy Test – Vegan and Plastic-Free

Antibodies from Diatoms: Company Spin-Off Develops Pregnancy Test – Vegan and Plastic-Free

These three team members come from the natural sciences: Eva-Maria Plönnigs, Stas Hans and Dr Alina Eilers (from left to right)

Dr Thomas Reinard's working group at the Institute of Plant Genetics, Section Plant Biotechnology, has been researching sustainable antibody production processes for some time. With Stas Hans' doctoral thesis, a breakthrough was achieved with the use of diatoms and comprehensive optimisation of the entire process: A complete workflow has now been established that enables a very high yield of antibodies of many formats (such as IgG, scFv-Fc, Fab2).

Environmentally friendly and animal-free: ethical and sustainable diagnostic products

There are many applications for such antibodies, which are usually extracted from the blood of specially bred mice, such as Covid-19 tests or pregnancy tests. The economic potential of moving away from the expensive and animal suffering associated with the previous method of obtaining antibodies was the starting point for the idea of founding the company: In spring 2023, the team from the Institute of Plant Genetics won the start-up competition Startup-Impuls and was able to found the start-up Phaeosynt GmbH in August 2023 thanks to support from the start-up service of Leibniz University Hannover (LUH).
Stas Hans, who studied plant biotechnology and molecular biology, biological-technical assistant Eva-Maria Plönnigs, Dr Maren Wichmann and Dr Thomas Reinard were the main researchers at the institute. Dr Alina Eilers, who graduated in the Life Science degree programme and already worked with rapid tests during her doctorate, and economist Stephanie Pfeil-Coenen have now joined the team with the company spin-off. After initially focusing exclusively on a B2B business model, the start-up is currently focussing on the production of the first vegan pregnancy test, which is expected to be launched in 2025.

Other products are being developed in close collaboration with Reinard's working group. For example, novel secondary antibodies are currently being developed as part of the BMBF project AniSAN. These are also vegan and offer many advantages over the products currently on the market as, unlike animal antibodies, they are permanently available and recognise their antigen more specifically. Although work on the novel secondary antibodies only started in April 2023, there are already interested parties for these novel products, which are of interest to many scientific and medical laboratories.
In this way, students working on their bachelor's, master's or doctoral thesis in the working group come into contact with a commercial application of research and science at an early stage and are therefore ideally prepared for the future.