Plasma protein purifying research wins global challenge

Decorative feature image
(L-R) PhD candidate Stefanie Buchholz with Professor Bernd Rehm, the winning team of the CSL Behring Plasma Protein Purification Challenge.
(L-R) Professor Bernd Rehm and Phd candidate Stefanie Buchholz socially distanced in the GRIDD courtyard.

Scientists from the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) have won a worldwide search for new ways to recover lifesaving antibodies from human plasma.

Global biotechnology leader CSL Behring, has awarded $40,000 to a team led by Professor Bernd Rehm, Director of the Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymers for their early research work that may have future implications for the isolation of immunoglobulins and other plasma-derived proteins to meet future demands of these products.

Professor Rehm says creating something in the lab that can be translated into real world solutions with a major biotechnology company is an exciting moment for his close-knit research group.

“It is very rewarding to have our research valued and considered one of the top innovations in this space against competitors internationally and in Queensland.”

Despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, biotechnologist and PhD candidate Stefanie Buchholz developed an impressive first-round pitch that resulted in the recognition of the work in the Rehm lab.

Stefanie had to start her research locked down and unable to access the GRIDD laboratory.

Stefanie’s research was delayed after arriving from Germany in 2020, only to be met with a hard Queensland lockdown soon after.

Confined to her Nathan student accommodation and restricted from entering the laboratory, Stefanie joined a generation of research scientists put on hold.

“It was really tough in the beginning, not being allowed to get set up properly, not meeting friends and you have to keep going with your PhD.”

“But we got a lot of support from Bernd and others in GRIDD, they put a lot of effort into checking in on us.”

Professor Rehm recalls the challenges it imposed, but his research group used the time to delve into scientific literature, develop detailed hypotheses and have in-depth discussions.

“We are experimental in our approaches and it was holding us back. But the students were still motivated hoping to get back into the lab,” he said.

“Everyone has been keen to be in the lab and do what we have extensively discussed on paper during that lockdown.”

Decorative image
(L-R) Stefanie and Bernd working together in the lab.

After returning to the lab and helping to win the Plasma Protein Purification Challenge, Stefanie finally feels more at home in Australia, encouraged by a chance to work side by side with a major industry partner.

“GRIDD has a supportive culture, you can draw from different skills across all the research groups to get help.”

“We have a lot of promising data about what we’re doing and I’m confident about the next steps for our research.”