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International Helmholtz Research School
of Biophysics and Soft Matter

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IHRS BioSoft faculty members

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Dieter Willbold

Structural Biochemistry

The Institute of Structural Biochemistry combines fundamental structural biological research with applied clinical research, with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. The molecular basis of the disease is being decoded by the research group led by Professor Dieter Willbold, using high-resolution structural biological methods such as NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, as well as simulations run on Jülich’s supercomputers. The Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for basic research in this area.

The institute is also developing an innovative therapy strategy using an in-house developed drug candidate that eliminates Aβ oligomers. These small soluble aggregates of the body’s own amyloid beta protein are considered to be key drivers of the disease's development and progression. The spin-off company Priavoid GmbH was established to develop the drug further. In addition, the researchers have advanced the diagnostic procedure, enabling significantly earlier and more reliable diagnoses, and helping to better assess therapeutic success in clinical trials. The ‘sFIDA method’ allows the detection of minute quantities of oligomers in samples of body fluids and is exploring and developing their use as biomarkers for diagnosing the disease. Another spin-off company, attyloid GmbH was founded to bring the technology to the market.

Further, the institute uses its research infrastructure for investigations into viral proteins, e.g. for HIV, basic cellular processes like autophagy, and biotechnologically interesting proteins like the DERA Enzyme.