Many thanks, Mr. Hildebrandt!
Your Excellency, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya, Mr. Joseph Magutt!
Ladies and gentlemen! Dear colleagues!
I am here as a representative of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, one of the partners in the BioRescue project.
Like all of us, I am appalled by the devastating loss of species that we are experiencing across the globe in this day and age. This calamity is particularly poignant when it concerns the disappearance of many delightful African mammals, such as the rhinoceros.
I would like to stress that species protection is unquestionably the best way to save threatened animals from extinction. And we all know that countries like Kenya, which are home to these magnificent beasts, are carrying the greatest burden of this commitment. Organizations like the Kenya Wildlife Service are working hard to protect endangered species. The efforts being undertaken by Kenya and many other countries deserve our respect and our support.
But sometimes even the greatest efforts are not enough, and species like the northern white rhino now seem doomed to extinction. In cases like these, modern stem cell biology may be able to help. In the future, this scientific method could prevent species from being irrevocably lost.
For many years, the Max Delbrück Center has been using stem cell biology to develop innovative cell models and organ models for medical research. For example, we can retrieve cells from patient skin samples and “reprogram” them inside a test tube to become different kinds of cells such as nerve cells, heart muscle cells, or liver cells. We can then use those cells to develop personalized therapies. The MDC has set up a special stem cell laboratory to conduct this research. It is led by Dr. Sebastian Diecke, whom you will meet later on.
Typically, the samples we develop are microscopic quantities of tissue – much smaller and less spectacular than a living, breathing rhinoceros. We are taking up this challenge in partnership with other institutions, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute our expertise in stem cell biology to the BioRescue project.
My wish is that everyone involved is able to make a meaningful contribution to the success of this exciting international project ‒ and that we are able to save a truly remarkable species.
Thank you very much!
Professor Thomas Willnow, MDC