How can researchers rapidly and effectively bring discoveries in the life sciences into the development of medical therapies as well as into the diagnosis and prevention of diseases? How can observations from clinical practice be fed back into basic research?
For many years already, researchers and physicians at the MDC and Charité have been working on these translational research questions in independent and collaborative projects.
The Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) has recently given this collaboration a formal structure. The BIH, a corporation under public law comprising the MDC and Charité, not only institutionalizes and pools together the long-time project-based collaborative activities of the two institutions, but also creates research synergies.
Since summer 2017, Prof. Martin Lohse, Scientific Director of the MDC, has additionally served as interim spokesperson of the BIH Executive Board (as of late 2017).
Closing the gap between basic research and application
The merging of the two institutions spans the divide between basic research and clinical application. The BIH brings the two worlds together in a translational research commons.
A close collaboration between experimental research and medical practice is vital if improved diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive procedures for the benefit of human health are to be developed. The BIH aims to ensure that advances in life science research are utilized to promote and improve human health.
The BIH’s mission is dedicated to discovering novel approaches that lead to better predictive outcomes and advanced therapies for progressive diseases and unmet medical needs. These should serve to restore or maintain people’s quality of life.
The BIH prioritizes two key areas in translational research:
- The research program “Personalized medicine for progressive diseases” is aimed at improving the prediction of progressive diseases for individual patients (new markers and models)
- The research program “Advanced therapies for progressive diseases” is aimed at developing and applying advanced regenerative and personalized therapies that target progressive diseases (new therapeutics and products)
Four large research platforms complement the translational research programs:
- Digital Medicine
- Clinical Translational Sciences
- Multiscale Genomics
- Humanized Model Systems and Cell Engineering
The platforms give researchers access to state-of-the-art technologies, methods, initiatives, and infrastructures.
Researchers, physicians, and patients under one roof
The BIH is erecting a new central research facility on the Berlin-Buch research campus. The building, situated in the immediate vicinity of the MDC, is scheduled to be completed by 2020. It will carry the name of the Jewish pediatrician Käthe Beutler, who was forced to flee Germany in 1935.
The facility will bring researchers, physicians, patients, and subjects under a single roof. Close contact and collaboration is of central importance to translational research. The facility’s architecture fosters open communication and features a spacious courtyard and several spaces where people using the facility can meet and interact. The new structure replaces buildings of the old Robert Rössle Clinic, which were constructed in the 1970s.
History of the Berlin Institute of Health
The Berlin Institute of Health was originally founded as an internal GbR (a partnership under civil law). Legislation enacted by the state of Berlin converted the Institute into a Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts (a corporation under public law) in 2015. As member entities of the BIH, the MDC and Charité retain their legal autonomy.
In July 2011, the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding to work together as a joint institution. First discussions about establishing the Berlin Institute of Health were held between then German Minister of Health Annette Schavan and then Berlin Senator for Research Jürgen Zöllner in 2011. On November 6, 2012, plans for establishing the BIH were announced by the German federal and Berlin state governments, which together signed the administrative agreement on the “Formation, Organization, and Financing of the Berlin Institute of Health” in January 2013.
Two months later, on March 25, 2013, the founding agreement was signed by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association, the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth, and Science, and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. The Berlin Institute of Health was initially founded as an internal Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts (GbR). Since April 23, 2015, the BIH is a Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts (KöR) and thus operates independently and has legal personality.
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