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Title of the project:


BioDisc4: Development of a novel, predictive, preclinical methodology for drug testing
Screening platform for neuroactive drug testing combining behavioral tests, microelectrode array technology and RNA Interference
Project leader:
Prof. Dr. Hansjürgen Volkmer
Project funding:
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Project management:
  • Projektträger Jülich (PTJ)
Funding reference number:

The search for therapeutically applicable neuroactive substances is accompanied by a high exclusion rate of drug candidates. The new test platform is intended to help reduce this exclusion rate. Various test methods are combined for this purpose: Behavioural tests in animal models, microelectrode arrays and RNA interference methods. Post-traumatic stress disorders serve as an example in a feasibility study.


The project aims to develop a novel predictive preclinical screening platform to reduce the prevailing high exclusion rate of drug discovery for psychiatric diseases. The development of new devices for drug testing will be linked to the establishment of a standardized in vivo model. Neuronal activity is measured by electrophysiological methods and activity patterns are compared in vitro and in vivo. Compared to conventional systems, additional specificity is achieved through the use of RNA interference methods both in vitro and in vivo. The approach is generally applicable for many questions. In this project, a feasibility study will be carried out using the example of post-traumatic stress disorders in which the GABA-A receptors play a specific role and represent sophisticated target structures for drug discovery.
In detail, microelectrode arrays are used for the derivation of signals from rats in vivo, whose behaviour in stress paradigms is measured in parallel with the derivation. The results are compared with those of conventional electrophysiological methods. In parallel, networks of cultured cortical neurons on microelectrode arrays will be derived in vitro in order to compare in vivo data with those from more powerful in vitro systems. By lentiviral transfer of RNA interference vectors, individual GABA-A receptors are down-regulated to investigate the involvement of specific receptor subunits for behavior and synaptic function and for the specificity of drugs both in vitro and in vivo. Finally, these vectors are also used to characterize changes in synaptic structures in experimental approaches.

Project partners:
  • Alpha-Omega Engineering Ltd., Nazareth
  • Neuroproof GmbH, Warnemünde
  • Universität Haifa