27. July 2022 | Press releases:

Standards for biomolecular medicine BRICS and PTB decide on cooperation

Since 1 June 2022, BRICS, a research centre of TU Braunschweig, and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig have been officially cooperating in an additional field. The cooperation, which has now been contractually established, focuses on standardisation in the biomedical field: globally applicable, objective standards for quantitative measurements in biomedicine are to be researched, i.e. units, limit values and measurement methods that can be traced back to the international SI system of units as much as possible. This is important, for example, in the administration of medicines such as insulin therapy and cholesterol diagnosis.

The cooperation goes back to the preparatory phase of the Excellence Initiative of TU Braunschweig in 2019. Since then, the “Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA)” and BRICS have been supporting a PTB initiative for standardisation in the biomedical field in the research network “Metrology for Life”. In particular, the teams of Professor Karsten Hiller (TU Braunschweig) and Professor Gavin O’Connor (PTB) are working together on this.

The cooperation with PTB has now been sealed with a contract – together with the Technische Universität Braunschweig (BRICS), the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Leibniz Institute DSMZ – German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures. The contract stipulates cooperation in terms of research content at BRICS and also includes a joint design of the master’s programme in biology to expand training in the field of metrology (the science of measurement technology) of biomolecular measurements.

“The collaboration with the world’s second largest metrology institute is proving to be a huge location advantage for our research at BRICS. In joint projects, we hope to standardise results and procedures from basic research and make them traceable to SI units in such a way that they can be applied in clinical diagnostics in the medium term,” says Professor Karsten Hiller from BRICS.

“The close cooperation between metrology and medicine enables correct and transferable measurement results in biomedical basic research. Technische Universität Braunschweig has established the research foci “Metrology” and “Infection and Therapeutics”. The cooperation of PTB and TU Braunschweig in BRICS makes it possible to extend the metrological core tasks of PTB and TU Braunschweig to biochemical and biomolecular research in medicine. On this basis, we can advance research for the future standards which are urgently needed for the further development of biomedicine,” says Professor Gavin O’Connor from PTB.

Standardisation in biomedicine

The urgent need for action can be illustrated by the example of cholesterol tests. There are various measurement methods for determining the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Comparative measurements by the German Medical Association show that tests from different manufacturers can show large differences in measurement results. Moreover, there can be a standard deviation within a test product. “What we need are reproducible measurement methods. For that, we need standards. Mass spectrometry is therefore the magic word,” says Professor Dieter Jahn, BRICS spokesperson. “Today, you can identify and quantify hundreds of compounds simultaneously with these instruments.”

PTB recognised the importance of standardisation in complex measurement processes at an early stage and is working on such issues in the newly founded Innovation Center for Systems Metrology (IZSM). In medicine, multiplex information is needed, for example for individualised therapies of tumour diseases.

For this purpose, the metrologists at PTB work together with the biologists and bioinformaticians at BRICS, who are familiar with biomedical processes in the human body and the substances requiring standardisation, to determine the biophysical parameters and measurement methods.

“The importance of reliable and internationally comparable measurement results in this area has become abundantly clear in the pandemic of recent years. Ensuring metrologically correct measurement results even for very complex measurands in biomedicine is today as large and new a field of activity as electrical engineering was at the time of PTB’s foundation a hundred years ago. The development of metrology in biomedicine requires the close cooperation of biomedical and metrological excellence and research, which is realised in this cooperation at BRICS”, says Dr Bernd Güttler from PTB.

About BRICS: “Understanding Health”

At the Braunschweig Integrated Centre of Systems Biology, BRICS, researchers want to understand what health means. To do this, they investigate the molecular connections that keep biological systems in balance. At BRICS, scientists use state-of-the-art methods to observe biological cells and holistically and precisely record the status of highly complex metabolic networks. With the help of computer-assisted, bioinformatic methods, they identify those factors that cause biological systems to become unbalanced – and thus lead to diseases. BRICS uses the knowledge gained in this way to develop innovative therapies.

BRICS is a joint and interdisciplinary research centre of TU Braunschweig, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), the Leibniz Institute DSMZ – German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH and, since June 2022, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).