NeuroProof was established in 2007 as a spinoff of the University of Rostock's animal physiology department in northern Germany. Its founders, Alexandra Gramowski and Olaf Schröder, have won international recognition for research that may lead to the development of new pain-relief drugs.
Securing research funding is vital to the 12-employee SME, which analyses compounds that may later be used as ingredients in pharmaceuticals or cosmetics, by testing their effects on the central nervous system.
The company is one of the few in the world that cultivates nerve cells on neuro-chips, which record the activity of individual cells and which can be interpreted afterwards. For the analysis, NeuroProof uses foetal mice nerve tissue that can be kept alive and monitored for weeks, potentially allowing drug companies to reduce development costs and ultimately bring better products to market.
Once NeuroProof developed the technique, it had to prove that it worked in practice - which meant finding research funding and partners from the fields of biochemistry and toxicology. Lacking contacts in all disciplines, it turned to the Enterprise Europe Network, with 3,000 experts available to help SMEs in more than 50 countries.
"We support companies and scientists in everything related to their research, from the preparation to running projects and marketing and technology transfer," explains Frank Graage, a Network expert with Steinbeis Team North-East, a research management group that works closely with the University of Rostock.
Besides giving NeuroProof advice on EU funding opportunities and helping it prepare applications, Network experts hooked it up with the right research partners across Europe. It also invited the SME to Network information events and workshops on EU funding programmes.
Guided by the Network, NeuroProof secured €1.3 million in EU funding via four separate projects, and found 37 new partners around the world. The projects, now all completed, allowed NeuroProof to profile 100 new compounds that may eventually be used by drug companies to develop treatments for pain, epilepsy and Alzheimer's.
"The Network's support made the whole process more manageable," says NeuroProof founder and CEO Olaf Schröder. He continues to work closely with the Network, which has invited him to speak about his company's experiences at various events and organised an interview with the Euronews television channel distributed on several platforms.