Berlin Science Week 2020

Organoids, open science and reality TV from the lab – the MDC at the Berlin Science Week

When virologists become reality TV stars, biologists dream of life without illness, researchers debate organoids vs. animal testing with the general public, and biomedical scientists discuss the possibilities of AI, it can only be Berlin Science Week. This year, the MDC is holding a number of virtual events.

Science requires the trust of society and thrives on dialogue – a fact that has become particularly apparent this year. “For us, Berlin Science Week is an excellent opportunity to touch base with the public,” says Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). “It is a chance for our scientists to present their work and come into contact with a wide and varied audience, both from Berlin and around the world. We want to inspire and be inspired. We want to be challenged and respond to questions. For us, this festival is a chance to find out what the outside world – be that the public or policymakers – expects and wants from us. During Science Week, Berlin presents itself as an innovative, vibrant and globally minded metropolis. Our health research makes up an important part of this image, and we want to showcase that research,” says Sommer, presenting the MDC’s Science Week program. “We want to help foster a better understanding of the work and thought processes behind scientific research and to consider how, for example, our basic biomedical research might make an impact in the future. We are very much looking forward to it!”  

The MDC has an event almost every day from November 1 to 10. Nearly all the events, which are directed at different stakeholders, are being held virtually and offer opportunities for interaction.

The MDC’s program at a glance

How much home office can science take?

Seizing the crisis – scientists discuss the risks and opportunities presented by new ways of working in science.

The pandemic has been an exceptional situation for everyone. All but essential laboratory activities were temporarily suspended, a number of childcare centers and schools had to close, and lots of work was – and is still being – done remotely at home. But how much social distancing can science – which requires constant discussion and exchange – take? The founding coordinators of BR50, an association of Berlin non-university research institutions, are hosting an event to examine this issue and explore questions such as: What has worked well and what could be done differently? What do researchers want to preserve for the future? What conditions are especially problematic for young researchers?

With Professor Jutta Allmendinger (President of the Berlin Social Science Center [WZB]); Professor Thomas Sommer (interim Scientific Director of the MDC); Professor Michael Hintermüller (Director of the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics (WIAS), Leibniz Institute in Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.); Professor Ulrich Panne (President of the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing [BAM])

An event by BR50, an association of Berlin non-university research institutions

November 2, 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., virtual


Artificial intelligence, organoids and animal models – new concepts in biomedicine

What are the most promising new ways to develop therapies for patients? Our experts give their views, respond to questions, and present the MDC’s new Preclinical Research Center.

There is more than one way to develop new therapies for patients. Here, we present and discuss examples from MDC research that combine different strategies and technologies – from artificial intelligence (AI), omics technologies and organoids to human tissue samples, animal models, the 3Rs, and clinical research. Plus, we explain the role that our new Preclinical Research Center (PRC) plays in this work.

Our experts will discuss these topics and answer your questions via online chat.

With Professor Thomas Sommer (interim Scientific Director of the MDC); Professor Michael Gotthardt (Head of the Neuromuscular and Cardiovascular Cell Biology Lab at the MDC); Dr. Uta Höpken (Microenvironmental Regulation in Autoimmunity and Cancer Lab at the MDC); Dr. Agnieszka Rybak-Wolf (Head of the Organoids Platform at the MDC); Dr. Claudia Gösele (Animal Welfare Officer, Head of Animal Facilities at the MDC Preclinical Research Center); Dr. Arnd Heuser (Head of the Animal Phenotyping Platform at the MDC)

November 3, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., virtual



Open science café

An afternoon of open science in bite-sized chunks.

Have you heard people talk about open science and wondered what exactly it means? Or is there an open science topic you would like to learn more about? Join us at our online open science café and sample a variety of short events throughout the afternoon. Over five hours, we will serve up a series of twenty-minute lectures and activities all about open science. Sip your coffee while you ingest bite-sized information about how to make different aspects of research more transparent, accessible and understandable for everyone. Or stick around for the full afternoon and leave the café an open science expert.

With Dr. Luiza Bengtsson, Emma Harris and Zoe Ingram. The open science micro lessons are being offered by participants of the Train-the-Trainer Online Course, an ORION Open Science Project organized by the MDC. 

November 4, 2:00 to 7:00 p.m., virtual



LifeTime imagines a future without illness

Join us on a daring journey into a future free from disease. The LifeTime initiative and The Future Game 2050 invite you to a virtual live performance.

Is a future without illness actually possible? In a virtual live performance, we explore what life would look like in a world where the goals of the LifeTime initiative have been successfully implemented. LifeTime and The Future Game 2050 challenge participants to come up with their own future scenarios and invite them on a daring journey to make a disease-free future a reality. The experience is accompanied by interviews with experts who will analyze the future scenarios from various scientific angles.

With Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky (Director of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology [BIMSB]) and Dr. Agnieszka Rybak-Wolf (Head of the Organoids Platform at the MDC); Dr. Emanuel Wyler (molecular biologist at the MDC); Friederike Riemer (co-founder of The Future Game 2050); Felix M. Wieduwilt (co-founder of The Future Game 2050)

November 5, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., virtual
Click here for the YouTube-Livestream!


Reality TV – a day in a biomedical lab

We offer an uncensored glimpse into daily life in our laboratories: Join us for a full day of fun, science and exciting personalities.

For one whole day, we are live streaming a normal day in our laboratories. MDC scientists will tell viewers what they are doing and explain their methods and aims, and then allow you to look over their shoulders as they conduct live experiments. The audience is also invited to ask questions – such as about our research or about education and career paths in science – which we will answer either live or during one of the Q&A coffee breaks. In betweennthere will be live music, TikToks and much more – just another regular day in a biomedical laboratory!

With Dr. Emanuel Wyler (postdoctoral researcher at the MDC); Janita Mintcheva (doctoral candidate at the MDC), Anika Neuschulz (doctoral candidate at the MDC); Nora Fresmann (doctoral candidate at the MDC); Dr. Andreas Ofenbauer (postdoctoral researcher at the MDC); Jonas Peters (doctoral candidate at the MDC); Marco Uhrig (doctoral candidate at the MDC); Karla Hajman (musician, satirist, science slammer); Dr. Luiza Bengtsson (public engagement and knowledge transfer at the MDC)

In cooperation with Wissenschaft im Dialog
November 6, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., virtual
Click here for the YouTube-Livestream!


New avenues in biomedicine: SARS-CoV-2 research

What cellular changes are caused by the SARS-CoV-2 infection and how do these changes affect the course of the disease?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently the focus of the entire world and is having a major impact on our daily lives. In Berlin, too, Covid-19 research is running full steam ahead. MDC scientist Dr. Emanuel Wyler is investigating the changes that various cells and organoids undergo during an infection. Here, we answer the question: What changes occur in the infected cells and how do these changes influence whether the disease progresses in a severe or mild way? The changes in an infected cell can vary between different cell types. The examined models will include sections of lung tissue and a variety of different organoids and cell lines.

With Dr. Emanuel Wyler

November 9, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Location: Zeiss Planetarium, Prenzlauer Allee 80
10405 Berlin

Life Science Learning Lab
Registration required:


Human brain organoids – a.k.a. “mini brains” – as tools for researching diseases of the nervous system

A virtual meeting between lab and teachers: In this advanced training course, you will learn about the current state of science and discover trends in life science research.

Organoids are 3D cultures made from stem cells that represent the cellular complexity and functionality of human organs “in vitro.” Organoids enable scientists to gain deeper insight into the most important cellular processes involved in tissue and organ formation, as well as in pathological processes. Given that the human brain is unique and not even primate models can accurately represent the development of neurological diseases, the creation of the “mini brain” is an important scientific breakthrough. In this course, we want to introduce you to the basics of mini brains, their applications and limitations. This further training for teachers is organized by Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky’s Systems Biology of Gene Regulatory Elements Lab.

With Dr. Agnieszka Rybak-Wolf (Head of the Organoids Platform at the MDC); Miriam Wandres (doctoral candidate at the MDC); Dr. Anna Löwa (postdoctoral researcher at the MDC); Dr. Luiza Bengtsson (Scientific Director of “Lab meets teacher”)

November 11, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., virtual

Falling Walls

Falling Walls and Berlin Science Week are once again organising the World Science Summit, which will be held remotely from 1 – 10 November 2020. This year there is a shift from physical events to a global virtual showcase, with free digital access for everyone. The aim of the summit is to acknowledge the some of the world’s best researchers and celebrate the most recent breakthroughs in science and society from all over the world.

Five people from the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine have been nominated:

  1. Professor Norbert Huebner in the category Life Sciences, for his work on translational landscape of the human heart.
  2. Ian Erik Stewart (AG Poulet) in the category of Science in The Arts, for EDGE which brings Neuroscience to the public through art.
  3. Tobias Opialla (AG Kempa) in the category of Science and Innovation Management, for his work on Lab Hive, an online tool for matching lab resources during the pandemic.
  4. Katrina Meyer (AG Selbach) in the category of Emerging Talents, for her discovery of a novel disease mechanism.
  5. Dr Luiza Bengtsson in the category of Science Engagement Initiatives, for her development of “Real or Fake”, an interactive quiz where the public decide whether the science presented by researchers is genuine or not.

In the category "Science and Innovation Management" MDC finalist Tobias Opialla is among the Top 10 and will present his concept at the Winner's Session on November 5th. Ian Erik Steward and Luiza Bengtsson also made it to the Final. Learn more about the other breakthroughs from the 1st to the 10th November 2020, with a daily science highlight programme at Noon GMT (13.00 Berlin Time) and the Grand Finale will be live streamed at Noon GMT (13.00 Berlin Time) on 9 November 2020 and will showcase the 10 Breakthroughs of the Year.

The full programme includes: 500+ speakers, 200+ sessions, 1 digital platform with live-streamed breakthroughs, expert panels, workshops and lectures.

November 1 - 10

Further information


Further information

The MDC’s complete program at the Berlin Science Week


Press contact

Jutta Kramm 
Head of the Communications Department
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) 
+49-(0)30-9406-2140 or