ETH Spark Award for a novel antiviral defense strategy

This week the annual award ceremony for the Spark Award was held at ETH Zurich. The prize, which recognises the most promising invention at ETH Zurich registered for a patent in 2016, went to Sabine Werner, Michael Meyer and Luigi Maddaluno. They have developed a new method to treat infections with numerous different viruses.

About 200 inventions were made at ETH Zurich last year. 109 are protected by patents. The best five of those 100 were selected as finalists for the sixth edition of the Spark Award. The five projects demonstrated the broad range of research at the ETH. One team is developing more efficient batteries with graphite flakes as cathode material, another team focusses on the protection of crypto-currencies, a third team works on an exosuit for gait rehabilitation and mobility assistance.

The winning project was again from the life sciences field: an innovative treatment method to combat viruses: To date, many drugs have only been effective against individual groups of viruses, and often the efficiency is limited. Sabine Werner, Luigi Maddaluno and Michael Meyer have identified a biological mechanism that makes it possible to treat infections with numerous different viruses. Rather than attacking the virus directly, the mechanism mobilises the body’s immune system. This new approach presumably has fewer side effects and could also be used in the treatment of epidemics.

During the event, ETH Vice-President Detlef Günther stressed that several start-up were founded by teams who were winners or finalists of the previous Spark Awards. Examples include Glycemicon and catcheye. This year the team with the exosuit had the most concrete plan to commercialise their invention soon. The “Myosuit” is an assistive device supporting patients with muscle weakness. The idea is to integrate the technology in pants and a control belt that can be easily put on and off and that supports the patient automatically.

More information can be found in an article on ETH News.

Videos of the finalists were published on the ETH website.