Scientists at Bayer HealthCare and Bayer CropScience are working on various joint research projects aimed at finding solutions in the fields of health care and nutrition as part of a cross-subgroup initiative to further strengthen Bayer’s innovative capability.
Different species have many things in common – which is immediately clear even at the cellular level. One of the groundbreaking projects in terms of interdisciplinary research collaboration involves looking at the mechanisms that cause cells to multiply or wither. “Cells have a memory in the form of a chemical marking of DNA. This memory effect is referred to as epigenetics,” explains Dr. Klaus Tietjen, one of the first Bayer scientists to devote himself to this area of research. The objective of the project is to find new ways of curing diseases or enhancing stress resistance in plants by stimulating or blocking identified target genes or proteins that are involved in epigenetic processes.
Scientists at Bayer HealthCare aim to use these epigenetic processes to discover novel therapeutic approaches in the fight against cancer. Says project manager Dr. Bernard Haendler: “Cells are programmed for a specific task when they are generated, subsequently developing into a brain cell, a skin cell or a liver cell, for example. Once they have achieved this target state, certain genes are switched on or off by epigenetic traits. If healthy cells later lose all or part of this epigenetic marking, they no longer form part of the whole system. They degenerate into cancer cells and begin to divide ruthlessly and uncontrollably.” The team of scientists is now investigating the extent to which chemical active ingredients can be used to control the individual components of this epigenetic machinery and thus prevent cancer cell division. The team headed by Haendler has already come up with an initial candidate for preclinical development.
Scientists at Bayer CropScience are working on influencing the signaling pathways of cells in a different way. Their project is aimed at finding epigenetic mechanisms that could enhance the stress resistance of plants. They are pursuing two complementary approaches. First, teams of scientists are looking for substances that strengthen the immune system of the cells and thus increase the plant’s resistance to cold, heat, insects, diseases and drought. Second, epigenetics offers new approaches to plant breeding.
The joint substance libraries of Bayer HealthCare and Bayer CropScience serve as the basis for these experiments. The huge volumes of data generated by such tests today can only be managed using computer analysis, which is why the epigenetics team now also includes bioinformatics experts like Dr. Mark Christoph Ott from Bayer CropScience. He is fascinated by the opportunities inherent in interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues from other specialist units: “The cross-function innovation culture that we have here at Bayer has benefits for us all.”
The Bayer Life Science Fund
The Bayer Life Science Fund supports a total of 12 projects, bundling expertise to discover new approaches in the areas of health care and nutrition. “Innovations can often be found at the interfaces between scientific disciplines,” says Dr. Monika Lessl, Head of Strategic Innovations. “That’s why these joint research projects offer us new findings and perspectives and thus support the development of groundbreaking medicines, new plant cultivars with resistance traits, or innovative crop protection agents.” These synergies combined with the scientists’ passion for research enable Bayer to help in shaping the future of the life sciences and thus contribute to improving the health of all living organisms.