BORNHEIM, Germany ¿ The German Research Ministry added seven projects to its nanobiotechnology program and plans to fuel them with DM15 million (US$7 million) in funding.

Selected research groups include Heidelberg-based Graffinity Pharmaceutical Design GmbH, which in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute of Polymer Chemistry wants to design protein chips made of photonic crystals.

¿It¿s preliminary work for a feasibility study,¿ Graffinity CEO Dirk Vetter told BioWorld international. The researchers aim at developing chips with cavities of photonic crystals, which may fetch proteins without affecting them by covalent binding.

The Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University of Bochum and Frankfurt-based Nanogen Recognomics GmbH want to develop nanoscale scaffolds, built by modules of pyranosyl RNA, a non-natural synthetic isomer of RNA. Uses of such scaffolds could include mimicking biological functions, and labeling or staining biomolecules, Nanogen Recognomics¿ Managing Director Norbert Windhab said.

A group at Fraunhofer Institute of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology (IUCT) at the Technical University of Aachen aims to develop a novel protein chip technology designed to detect interactions between single unknown protein molecules and directly characterize these proteins¿ corresponding DNA sequence.

¿By this, we want to search for interactions of proteins originating from different protein libraries,¿ project leader Stefan Barth said. IUCT is collaborating on the project with Miltenyi GmbH, of Bergisch Gladbach; Kugler GmbH, of Salem; BioVisioN GmbH & Co. KG, of Hannover; and the University of Regensburg.

Other projects to be supported by the program include research on molecular stopcocks in plant vessels, work on single molecule manipulation and interfaces for ion-channel proteins.

The seven projects are the second group to be supported by the ministry¿s program. The program started in April 2000 with 21 projects. These were granted DM40 million. The whole program is planned to provide DM100 million by 2006. Selection of the next group of projects is expected in September 2002.