No. 5/October 30, 1998

Cause of severe renal disease found

MDC scientist awarded the prestigious Heinrich Wieland Prize

Children with this disease suffer from rickets, their bones fail to form properly, they suffer from skeletal deformities and cannot develop normally. In adults the bones are soft. These patients, children and adults, have one thing in common: they suffer from a severe renal disease, so-called Fanconi’s syndrome. The characteristic of this disease, which can manifest itself in a variety of forms, is vitamin D deficiency. In this disease the body is unable to utilize vitamin D. Attempting to treat the condition by giving vitamin D tablets is useless. The patient’s kidneys simply excrete the vitamin, which regulates calcium and bone metabolism. Recently, Dr. Thomas Willnow, a Heisenberg scholar and research group leader at the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, has discovered one of the causes which lies behind this metabolic defect. In recognition of his research on lipid metabolism Dr. Willnow has been awarded (30th October, 1998) the Heinrich Wieland Prize worth 50.000 DM in a ceremony which took place in Munich.

No. 4/ September 8, 1998

Grand Opening of the Biotechnology Business and Development Center

Bio-Boom in Berlin-Buch

With both, the presiding Mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen, and the Federal Minister of Research, Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers (Bonn) in attendance, the new Biotechnology and Business Development Center in Berlin Buch was opened on Tuesday, September 8, 1998. Diepgen and Rüttgers thereby underscored the significance that they attribute to the development of biotechnology. The Development Center was established with approximately DM 50 million from the Common Mission for the Improvement of Regional Economics (GA, Gemeinschaftsaufgabe zur Verbesserung der regionalen Wirtschaftsstruktur) and the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE, Europäischer Fonds für Regionalentwicklung).

No. 3/May 6, 1998

Turning a disadvantage into an advantage

New Approach to fight Cancer with mutant Adenoviruses - First Clinical Trials promising

In the last few years researchers have begun to understand the molecular processes by which normal cells are transformed into tumor cells. Among the key players in these processes are tumor suppressor genes and their proteins. Their task is to keep cell growth under control by turning certain genes off or by directing cells to commit suicide if they begin to develop abnormally. Thus the proteins pRB and p53 are to be counted among the primary lifesavers of the organism. If pRB or p53 become defective or lost, cell growth goes unregulated and a tumor may develop. Indeed, most human tumors have lost either pRB or p53. Dr. Frank McCormick from the Cancer Center of the University of California in San Francisco is attempting to turn this disadvantage into an advantage by exploiting it in order to develop a new molecular therapy for cancer. Through the use of modern genetic technologies he enables common cold viruses (adenoviruses) to infect, and ultimately kill, precisely those tumor cells which lack pRB or p53. First clinical trials with this approach began in the USA and the United Kingdom two years ago. The virus turned out to be safe and tumors could be reduced substantially in size or even be eliminated, Dr. McCormick pointed out in a press conference at the 6th Gene Therapy Symposium at the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch.

No. 2/May 6, 1998

Molecular Chimera

New experimental Strategy to Repair Gene Defect in the Liver

American scientist Clifford Steer and his colleagues from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have developed a novel strategy to repair single-gene defects in the liver. They used a molecular chimera consisting of sequences of DNA and RNA. By delivering it to isolated liver cells of haemophiliac animals, the scientists succeeded in altering a point mutation in the gene of blood clotting factor IX thus repairing their inherited defect. „This new tool, although still experimental, suggests a potentially powerful strategy for gene repair in the liver without using viral gene carrier systems“, Dr. Steer said in a press conference at the 6th Gene Therapy Symposium at the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, a national research laboratory in the northeast of Berlin.

No. 1/May 4, 1998

6th International Gene Therapy Symposium in Berlin-Buch

Topic: Development of Gene Vectors and their Target Organs

Approximately 250 scientists from the United States, Canada, France, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland, Israel and Germany have come to attend the Sixth Gene Therapy Symposium of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) on May 4-6, 1998, in Berlin-Buch. The focus of the gathering of experts, this year under the motto, „Towards Gene Therapeutics,“ is basic research. New insights and knowledge arising from the development of so-called „gene vectors“ and their target organs are key points of interest.