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Prof. Walter Rosenthal: “The Founding of the Berlin Institute of Health: A Unique Opportunity for the German Science Landscape”

“The founding of the Berlin Institute of Health, (BIH) is a unique opportunity for the German science landscape to restructure the collaboration between a non-university research institution and a university medical center in the field of basic and clinical research,” said Prof. Walter Rosenthal, chairman of the board and scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. Speaking at a press conference with Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit in the Charité on November 6, 2012, he went on to say: “For politicians, German reunification was something unique, just as it was for me as a citizen. Something like that only happens once in a lifetime. And here in the field of science another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has presented itself – to participate in the creation of an entirely new research structure. I am therefore delighted that we can be part of the founding of the BIH.

“The planned
cooperative venture with the Charité, which will
harness the strengths and expertise of both partners, will significantly advance
health research in Germany and also internationally,” said Prof. Jürgen Mlynek, president of the Helmholtz Association. “With this
cooperation we especially want to promote translational research, that is, to
more quickly translate findings from basic research into clinical applications for
the benefit of patients.” The MDC is one of 18 research institutions of the Helmholtz
Association, the largest research institution in Germany, and is funded to 90 percent
by the Federal Government and to 10 percent by the State of Berlin.

The BIH has been established to combine the basic research of the MDC with
the research of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin
Berlin. The goal is to build up a leading international institute of health
research that for the first time in Germany will pursue an interdisciplinary,
holistic and systems-medical approach. This means that the research focus will
shift away from specific diseases and towards the basic molecular causes of
diseases, in order to develop new diagnostic methods, treatments and preventive
measures. For the research of the BIH in the coming years, extensive technology
platforms are being set up.

Added value for the MDC

Bringing together the research activities of the MDC and the Charité within the framework of the BIH will mean added
value for the MDC. Since its founding, the MDC has pursued the transfer of
basic research into clinical applications, known as translational medicine. “To
achieve this, the MDC needs the Charité
as a partner: Strong basic research and a strong clinical partner with its own
excellent research must complement each other for the translation to succeed,” Prof.
Rosenthal said. The new institute will provide the conditions to implement this.
As before, the MDC will cooperate closely with the universities in Berlin and
other biomedical institutions, so that Berlin as research location will be
further strengthened.

Public corporation

The BIH will be established in 2015
by the State of Berlin as a public corporation. The MDC and the Charité will retain their respective identities as separate
entities in the BIH. For the transition period 2013-2014 a cooperation
agreement will regulate the cooperation between the two institutions in the
BIH. “Accordingly, the legal form of the MDC will change, but it will retain
its independence,” Prof. Rosenthal said.

MDC – a non-university research institution
with an international reputation

The MDC was founded in January 1992 on the recommendation of the Science Council with the
goal of combining molecular basic research with clinical research. Research
activities of the MDC focus on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer,
diseases of the nervous system and systems biology. In recent years the MDC has
developed into an internationally recognized research institute. In the Thomson
Reuters ranking, it ranked 14th among the world’s 20 best research institutions
in the field of molecular biology and genetics.

The MDC (as of November 2, 2012) employs a total of 1,627 people from 57
countries (1,142 MDC employees and 485 guests), including 841 scientists and
graduate students. The MDC has an annual budget of approximately 71 million
euros, not counting external grants acquired by MDC scientists amounting to two-digit
millions of euros.

The MDC and the Charité
have been working together for many years. On Campus Berlin-Buch,
already in 2007, the two institutions founded the Experimental and Clinical
Research Center (ECRC), where they promote cooperation between basic and
clinical researchers on a project basis.

The MDC also participates in three of the six German Centers for Health
Research, whose research activities focus on specific diseases and which thus
complement the systems-medical approach of the BIH. The MDC is also represented
in “Cardio Berlin” together with the Charité and the Deutsche
Herzzentrum Berlin (DZHB, German Heart Institute) in
the “German Centre for Cardiovascular Research” (DZHK). In addition, scientists
of the MDC also collaborate with the Berlin site of the “German Center for
Neurodegenerative Diseases” (DZNE) and the “German Consortium for Translational
Cancer Research” (DKTK).

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
in the
Helmholtz Association
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin;
+49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax:  +49 (0) 30
94 06 - 38 33