Pioneer of the Tet system for controlling the expression of genes also takes novel approach to the development of malaria vaccines

Dangerous bloodsucker at work. Prof. Hermann Bujard wants to test the effectiveness of promising malaria vaccine candidates in clinical studies

Karlsruhe, 3 February 2010 – The well-known molecular biologist Professor Hermann Bujard drives research in the most diverse fields. The Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH assists and advises the inventor on behalf of the University of Heidelberg in all matters relating to patent applications and negotiates commercialization contracts. A technology transfer and licensing agreement for the optimization of the Tet system of genetic switching is in place. A new focus is now on patents covering promising candidates for a malaria vaccine. 


Almost all leading pharmaceutical companies and innumerable research laboratories use Tet systems in their daily work. The inventor Professor Hermann Bujard, who until the end of 2009 was director of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in Heidelberg, and his team have created a standard microbiological tool that targets the on/off switch of genes. The transcription of the information of a gene can be regulated reversibly and quantitatively by means of gene switches which are controlled by tetracycline. In particular, the revolutionary aspect of these switches are that they can be applied to a broad range of situations in higher organisms such as yeasts, plants and mammals. The Tet system is also of use in the field of human medicine such as the focused development of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and heart attacks (mouse model of angiogenesis), and birth control in mosquitoes which can transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever (RIDL®-Mosquitoes).


A new invention, which optimizes the Tet promoters, and thus further enhances the Tet technology, has been commercialized by the Technologie-Lizenz-Büro GmbH in Karlsruhe, Germany. The patent commercialization agency acted on behalf of the University of Heidelberg, where Bujard became professor of molecular genetics in 1970, and where he spearheaded the establishment of the Centre for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) during the 1980s.  


Commercial partner for the optimized promoter technology is the company TET Systems Holding GmbH & Co. KG in Heidelberg, which Bujard, together with colleagues, founded in 2004 and which holds the rights to all six patent families covering this cutting edge technology. This new invention will, within the Tet technology, lead to the optimization of a product that is already commercially available. In 2005, the TLB was already involved in putting in place a contract with TET Systems covering an invention that improved the base technology.


TET Systems very successfully markets the Tet technology. The firm provides technical support to licensees in the successful product development and the marketing of such products. More than 150 license agreements have been signed to date. In addition to pharmaceutical firms and biotechnology enterprises, these agreements cover some 1500 academic research institutes around the globe, and in particular, the USA.


“The latest invention by Professor Bujard has the clear potential to be another commercial success”, says Dr Uta Weirich, TLB Innovation Manager overseeing this project. The agreements with TET Systems, which were negotiated with TLB’s assistance, benefit the University of Heidelberg as well as the inventors. Hermann Bujard intends to invest some of the income generated by the Tet patents in a project which he has been strongly committed to for the past two decades, both for scientific as well as humanitarian reasons. The development and testing of a new vaccine against malaria tropica, the most serious form of malaria for which there is at present no vaccine available that provides longer term protection. Following his retirement from the directorship of the EMBO, which he held since vacating his professorial chair to become Emeritus Professor of the University of Heidelberg, Hermann Bujard will return to the university. There he will, together with his collaborator of many years Professor Michael Lanzer, continue to research vaccine candidates against the most dangerous malaria pathogen. This work will be carried out with a research team at the Institute of Parasitology at the University Hospital.


In the case of the malaria vaccine, Professor Bujard and the University of Heidelberg will also collaborate with the TLB to manage the patent portfolio and its commercialization. A new invention which complements Bujard’s existing malaria patent portfolio was claimed by the University based on an assessment by the TLB of its patentability and its commercial potential.


The production of the vaccine candidate is in preparation and Bujard expects that the first phase of clinical studies will commence in Heidelberg as early as 2010. The field trials that are likely to follow this first phase are expected to take three to four years. These studies will be undertaken in Africa, the continent most severely affected by this disease. The development of vaccines provides hope that it will be possible to control the most significant of all tropical diseases.


About the Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH

The TLB is the commercialization agency for inventions emanating from universities of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg in the southern part of Germany. TLB’s innovation managers bridge the gap between science and industry and offer a complete range of services from advising inventors and managing patent applications, to negotiating license agreements. TLB’s broad patent portfolio includes mainly technologies in the following sectors, Energy, Measurement and Instrumentation, Microsystems, Materials, Medical Technologies, Pharmaceuticals, Chemistry, Biotechnology and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

For further information regarding the inventions / Media Contact

Dr Uta Weirich 

Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) 

der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

Ettlinger Straße 25, 76137 Karlsruhe, Germany

Tel. +49-721-79004-0, Fax +49-721-79004-79, Email: uweirich(at)