Artistic rendering of a heart

German Center for Cardiovascular Research

Deutsches Zentrum für Herz-Kreislauf-Forschung (DZHK)

The Max Delbrück Center is a founding partner of the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK), which works to translate new findings from cardiovascular research into improved therapeutic, diagnostic, and preventive procedures as quickly as possible.

Interdisciplinary research based on large-scale trials and research projects is becoming increasingly important, particularly when it comes to combining basic and clinical research. The DZHK provides the framework for precisely these sorts of projects. The Max Delbrück Center is one of the DZHK’s Berlin-based partner institutions.

History and background of the DZHK
German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK)

In terms of statistics, cardiovascular diseases remain the most prevalent severe chronic disease in our society. Coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction (heart attacks), and heart failure are still the most frequent causes of death.

The German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) was founded in 2011 in response to these statistics, as an initiative of the Germany Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The DZHK is one of the BMBF’s six German Centers for Health Research (DZGs) The joint aim of these centers is to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of widespread diseases.

The DZHK’s founding agreement was signed by Prof. Thomas Eschenhagen of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, who now also holds the position of Chairman of the Board at the DZHK; Prof. Gerd Hasenfuß of the Heart Center at the University Medical Center Göttingen; and Prof. Walter Rosenthal, who was then a member of the Board of Directors of the Max Delbrück Center. Today, the Max Delbrück Center is represented on the DZHK Board of Directors by Director (interim) Thomas Sommer.

The DZHK is organized as an association, with statutes that regulate its activities. It receives 90 percent of its funding from the federal government and 10 percent from the respective states where its partner institutions are located.

The DZHK focuses on three main topics that are of particular importance to patients and the healthcare system:

  • Prevention and treatment of heart attacks
  • Prevention and individualized treatment of heart defects
  • Prevention of sudden cardiac death

Website of the DZHK

The targeted funding of patient-oriented research

The DZHK promotes long-term studies by research groups through its DHZK professorships. DZHK Professor Holger Gerhardt is currently a research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center, where he and his team are investigating the mechanisms of angiogenesis – the formation of blood vessels. This process is disrupted by certain diseases, such as cancer and diabetic retinopathy.

A central aspect of the DZHK’s work is to facilitate cooperation between its member institutions. The Max Delbrück Center is particularly active in preclinical research and a sought-after partner in this respect. The Max Delbrück Center also shares its scientific expertise, technology, and facilities with DZHK partners at other sites as part of collaborative projects. These project partners rely on the expertise of the Max Delbrück Center in the generation of disease models and the high-throughput analysis of samples (genomics and proteomics).


The DZHK General Assembly elects some outstanding researchers to "Principle Investigators" (PI). These scientists meet regularly and discuss strategies such as research priorities of their DZHK institution. The status "DZHK-PI" is effective for five years and can be extended.

Max Delbrück Center manages allocation of DZHK funding

The DZHK receives its funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and from the individual German states. Since 2011, the Max Delbrück Center has been entrusted with managing these funds and allocating them to all DZHK member institutions and external partners. The federal portion is earmarked exclusively for the funding of projects and is allocated based on the conclusion of private-law funding contracts.

The Department of „DHZK Funding Resources Management“ responsible for this task is located within the Administrative Directorate of the Max Delbrück Center.