“Finally, after a lengthy delay, we have found a solution that will benefit patients,” said Martin Lohse, Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), about the administrative agreement on the BIH reached between the Berlin Senate and the federal government on Friday. “As one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutes, we are pleased that we can bring our expertise in vascular medicine and single-cell biology to bear in the BIH in such a way that enables it to be quickly applied in clinical settings.”
At the same time, Lohse highlighted the need to flesh out the details of the privileged partnership stipulated in the agreement, especially considering that the cooperation in the BIH has so far been too complex. “The partnership should be clearly defined – ideally directly in the agreement itself. We all need planning security in order to be able to recruit international researchers to Berlin and to provide attractive prospects – and that goes not just for new hires, but also for our existing staff,” Lohse stressed. “We are happy to continue to jointly use the outstanding technology platforms established at the MDC with the BIH, and hope to work in partnership on their further development and share their use and also have them funded accordingly,” Lohse continued. “The MDC offers an international environment, about half of our scientists come from other countries, and many of them are recognized as leading researchers by the European Research Council (ERC). We are well networked internationally. We want to continue to bring our global research network to bear in the BIH, and are happy to have Charité’s clinicians take part in the network and to work with them to expand it.” In exchange, he said, the MDC would like the collaboration with the BIH to include expanding joint efforts to translate research into clinical practice, adding that “a partnership is based on mutual benefits.”
The important role of the MDC
Over the last several years the Max Delbrück Center has contributed significantly to the development of the BIH, investing both money and expertise. Lohse cited several examples.
- The MDC played a crucial role in recruiting Professor Holger Gerhardt, an internationally recognized specialist in angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels), from London to Berlin.Gerhardt is investigating ways to influence the formation of new blood vessels. This process plays a key role in a wide variety of diseases such as cancer or diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness in diabetes patients as a result of damage to blood vessels in the retina. Gerhardt’s work at the MDC is the basis of the planned vascular focus at the BIH. “It is a perfect example that today we can no longer focus our attention on a single organ or on a particular condition if we want to explain the causes of diseases,” said Lohse. ‟We can understand some disease mechanisms better by broadening our perspective.” This is also an example, he said, of how an entirely new approach came to be used in medicine, one that may eventually benefit many patients. Gerhardt is one of the initiators of the BeLOVE study on which researchers from Charité, the MDC and the BIH are collaborating. They plan to follow 10,000 patients who suffer from acute diseases of the blood vessels (such as heart attack and stroke) over many years in order to find out why some people survive the disease relatively well and why others don’t.
- Another successful project cited by Lohse was the collaboration between Professor Angelika Eggert (Charité) and Professor Matthias Selbach (MDC). They are looking for new ways to detect and treat neuroblastoma. This cancer of the nervous system, which primarily affects children, can progress very differently. Eggert and Selbach are searching for molecular signatures that allow conclusions to be drawn about the properties of the tumor and the metastasis mechanisms. The findings should help make a prognosis about the course of the cancer and in the future should lead to a better characterization and treatment of other malignant tumors.
- The technology platforms are another example where the MDC plays a significant role in the BIH’s activities.These platforms are integrated into existing MDC infrastructures and can draw on the expertise of MDC scientists and their networks. A good example of this, Lohse said, is the Pluripotent Stem Cells Platform led by Sebastian Diecke. It provides support to research groups who need patient-specific disease models.
It was announced on Friday that the Berlin Senate and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research had reached an administrative agreement on the BIH, according to which the BIH is to become – alongside the university hospital and the medical faculty – the third pillar of Charité. This means that the MDC and Charité will no longer be member entities of the BIH. The MDC will instead be an associated partner.
The agreement must still be approved by consensus by the Joint Science Conference of the Federal Government and the Länder (GWK). The GWK’s next meeting is scheduled to be held in July.