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Pioneers from NRW – Prof. Dr. Dieter Willbold

The great leap out of oblivion

“There is a relevant start-up community in NRW, particularly in the field of biotechnology.”


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Prof. Dr. Dieter Willbold aims to understand how proteins behave in cells and perform their tasks. As a structural biologist, he investigates the atomic resolution structure of biological molecules, for example the folding (3D structure) of proteins. His research findings have already led to the foundation of two spin-offs that focus on the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Prof. Willbold, professor of physical biology at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and Director of the Institute of Biological Information Processing – Structural Biochemistry at Forschungszentrum Jülich, has discovered a new class of active ingredients that might enable the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease for the first time. To this end, he founded the biotech company Priavoid in 2017 as a spin-off of Forschungszentrum Jülich and Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. The company’s drug candidate passed the first phase of clinical trials in 2018 and will enter phase II clinical trials in 2023. Prof. Willbold is receiving support from the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIND). The revolutionary approach used by Prof. Willbold has convinced the SPRIND experts to invest in the development of the new active ingredient. The active ingredient breaks down the toxic aggregates of specific proteins (beta-amyloid oligomers), which are the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, into their non-toxic individual (beta-amyloid monomers) components and thus restores the normal function of the protein.

The results of phase II clinical trials are expected in 2026.

BIO.NRW wishes Prof. Willbold every success in his endeavours.

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