Scientists at a desk laughing

Success stories

Breaking down barriers in molecular medicine

The MDC is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutes. The extent of its scientific success can be seen in just a few selected highlights.

Most of our researchers are biologists or chemists, while others are bioinformaticians, mathematicians, physicians, or physicists. For these experts, molecular medicine is about combining the different perspectives of physicians and scientists.

A steadily rising number of publications

The immediate result of a scientist's work are research papers which are published in scientific journals. These articles serve a central aspect of science: spreading knowledge across the world. Other researchers subsequently re-use and cite the results in their own work.

Publications 2014-2018
  Total Number of publications in journals with impact factor > 10 Average impact factor
2020 567 122 7,63
2019 449 84 7,57
2018 475 98 7.11
2017 448 98 7.47
2016 490 77 6.39
2015 432 68 6.32
2014 402 67 6.54

Calculations are based on publications of MDC research groups, guest groups, technology platforms and ECRC groups with a stated ECRC affiliation.
Some 65 percent of all publications were co-authored by researchers from other countries.

The most prestigious research grants in Europe

European Research Council (ERC) views the recipients of its highly sought-after funding as pioneers venturing into uncharted territory. The selection process for the grants is based on a single criterion – scientific excellence – and researchers are not constrained by any thematic or policy priorities. That's why receiving an ERC grant is a great honour and valuation of one's work.

26 scientists who won ERC grants are currently working at the MDC.

Examples of recent significant scientific discoveries

Noteworthy discoveries made by MDC research groups are featured in our Research Highlights.

Research leading to better therapy and diagnoses

MDC scientists have founded a number of spin-offs. Of special note is T-knife, one of the most successful spin-offs in Germany’s biotech scene.

T-knife was founded in 2018 as a spin-off of the MDC with support from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. It is based in the biotech campus in Berlin-Buch. The company develops novel T-cell-based immunotherapies against certain types of cancer.  T cells monitor our body to protect it from diseases, such as viral infections. Tumor cells also have special antigens on their surface, but the immune system often does not recognize them as malignant and therefore does not fight them. T-cell therapies pursued in T-knife address this problem by teaching the patient’s immune cells to target cancer cells by equipping them with new T-cell receptor that can recognize cancer antigens.

T-knife uses humanized mouse models whose T-cells carry exclusively human T cell receptors to develop a portfolio of innovative TCR T-cell therapy programs. The foundation for this next generation of T-cell therapies was laid by T-knife co-founder Thomas Blankenstein and his team at the MDC together with the Charité in decades of research.

Two recently approved drugs are based on MDC research

MDC researchers also made a key contribution to two drugs that came on the market in 2015: VONVENDI (Baxalta Inc., now: Shire) and Blincyto (Amgen). 

VONVENDI is the only recombinant treatment for adults living with von Willebrand disease (VWD), an inherited bleeding disorder. Patients lack a protein – known as von Willebrand factor – that is crucial for normal blood clotting. VONVENDI provides a substitute and therefore helps control bleeding episodes.

Blincyto, on the other hand, is an immunotherapy against a very aggressive form of blood cancer (B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia). The bone marrow of these patients produces too many immature white blood cells. Rather than maturing into functional cells, these lymphoblasts rapidly reproduce, suppressing normal blood formation. The drug enlists the body’s own T-cells to destroy this cancer.

The interest of industrial partners in MDC technologies is considerable. One prominent example is our in-house development of the Sleeping Beauty 100x transposon system as a highly effective non-viral gene transfer technology for cell-based therapies. The MDCell Helmholtz Innovation Lab performs customer services in the area of gene and cell engineering based on the Sleeping Beauty technology.