Drug Development


The goal of the Technology Platform 4 is to develop new therapeutic approaches and to advance them to the development of new drugs. The extensive chemical, pharmaceutical and structural biology expertise at Goethe University in Frankfurt makes it possible to develop and optimize new drug candidates against validated target structures; innovative “biologicals” and cell therapeutics are developed at Georg-Speyer-Haus and the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut in Langen, for which certified production areas are available at the Institute of Transfusion Medicine.

Since 2017, Goethe University Frankfurt has also been one of the academic sites of the global Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), a public-private open science partnership with the aim of accelerating drug development by exploiting previously untapped resources. The FCI will collaborate closely on drug discovery with the SGC site in Frankfurt, which has libraries of compounds for potential new applications as well as highly selective inhibitors. The EU-funded Innovative Medicines Initiative program EUbOPEN, which among other things aims to establish a library of selective inhibitors (chemogenomic set) for over 1000 targets, is also collaborating intensively with the FCI. 


The platform P4, together with networks integrated in the FCI, allows to support drug development projects at any stage of the value chain. In early development projects, for example, fragment-based screening, conventional high-throughput screening methods from extensive target libraries, or phenotypic screens can be used to identify and advance novel inhibitors. Selectivity screens as well as mechanistic cell-based assay systems can be developed together with the platform P4 and our expertise in medicinal chemistry methods allows rapid optimization of identified lead structures. New pharmacologically active modalities such as PROTACs (Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras) have also been successfully developed.

In parallel, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI) will contribute so-called DARPin libraries (designed ankyrin repeat proteins). DARPins can recognize suitable target structures in tumor cells and selectively inactivate them. The PEI has established the necessary selection procedures to generate DARPins against new target structures identified in the FCI.

In addition to the possibility of developing molecularly targeted small molecule drugs, Frankfurt’s Blutspendedienst also has production lines for cell-based therapeutics in accordance with GMP standards. At the Georg-Speyer-Haus and the University Hospital, for example, pioneering work has been done in recent years in the development of CAR-NK cells for adoptive immunotherapy, and a first phase I trial is conducted in patients with relapsed ErbB2-positive glioblastoma.


The technology platform 4 is headed by Stefan Knapp, who, as lead of the SGC site in Frankfurt, has great expertise in the field of structure-guided drug design.

Furthermore, the junior research group Drug Development of Xinlai Cheng significantly strengthens this area. To strengthen the existing drug development platforms, a Staff Scientist is also funded by LOEWE-FCI.

The following scientists participate in Technology Platform 4:

Stefan Knapp


Xinlai Cheng

Drug Development

  • Xinlai Cheng
  • Stefan Knapp
  • Harald Schwalbe
  • Zuzana Tatarova
  • Winfried Wels
  • Staff Scientist: Andreas Krämer