Drug Development and Novel Therapeutic Approaches


The goal of Research Area 4 Drug Development and Novel Therapeutic Approaches 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 the Goethe University in Frankfurt enables the development and optimization of new drug candidates against validated target structures. At the Georg-Speyer-Haus and at the Paul Ehrlich Institute, innovative “biologicals” and cell therapeutics are being developed for which there are certified production areas at the Institute of Transfusion Medicine.
The Goethe University Frankfurt has also been one of the academic sites of the Global Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) since 2017, a public-private partnership aiming to accelerate drug development by exploiting previously untapped resources. The FCI will closely cooperate with SGC Site Frankfurt in drug development.


The Frankfurt site of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) provides the FCI with access to extensive screening platforms and substance libraries that enable efficient, structure-based drug design and repurposing studies. For example, the SGC is developing highly specific cell-based inhibitors (chemical probes) that are ideal tools to identify and validate new cancer-related targets before further advancing the clinical development. The SGC Frankfurt site also coordinates the so-called Probe Program, in which pharmaceutical partners provide more than 70 well-characterized, highly selective inhibitors of disease-related proteins. Not only the physical substances but also the associated data (selectivity, pharmacokinetics, phenotype) are accessible. Many of these inhibitors have already been optimized for in vivo studies or have already been tested in clinical trials. These inhibitors are ideal for mechanistic studies and therefore of great value for research within the FCI. In addition, a Chemical Screening Platform will be set up which will be available to the FCI.
In parallel, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute (PEI) will introduce so-called DARPin libraries (designed ankyrin repeat proteins). DARPins can recognize and selectively inactivate appropriate target structures in tumor cells. The PEI has established the necessary selection procedures to generate DARPins against new target structures, which will be identified in projects in the FCI.
In addition to the possibility of developing molecularly targeted small-molecule drugs, Frankfurt also has production lines for cell-based drugs according to the GMP standard at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy. For example, the Georg-Speyer-Haus and the University Hospital have pioneered the development of CAR-NK cells for adoptive immunotherapy in recent years, and a first phase I trial has started in patients with relapsed ErbB2-positive glioblastoma.


Research area 4 Drug Development and Novel Therapeutic Approaches is led by Stefan Knapp, who as Chief Scientific Officer of the SGC Frankfurt site has extensive expertise in the field of structure-guided drug design.

In addition, a W2 professorship in tumor immunology and a junior research group in drug development will significantly strengthen this area. To reinforce the existing platforms of drug development, a Staff Scientist position and a technical assistance will be funded by FCI.

The following scientists participate in Research Area 4:

Tumor Immunology

LOEWE professor
to be recruited

Xinlai Cheng

Junior GroupDrug Development

  • Tumor Immunology (W2)
  • Christian Buchholz
  • Xinlai Cheng
  • Volker Dötsch
  • Stefan Knapp
  • Daniela Krause
  • Harald Schwalbe
  • Winfried Wels
  • Staff Scientist: Andreas Krämer