Escherichia coli under the microscope

World Health Summit: How Microbiomedical Research is Changing Medicine

The human body hosts myriads of microbial ecosystems. Their diversity is shaped by our living conditions and habits, and in turn they are shaping our wellbeing. At the World Health Summit, international experts will explore where microbiome research intersects with unmet medical needs and how to devise preventative health policies.
This burden of disease is influenced by a change in microbiota. There is increasing evidence that traditional dietary practices with probiotics or fibers can be protective but are at risk of being lost – with devastating consequences.
Sofia Forslund ist Bioinformatikerin am ECRC
Dr. Sofia Forslund Group leader at MDC

More processed food, more sugar, more fat: When diets and habits of people shift towards a Westernized lifestyle, an epidemic of metabolic and inflammatory diseases follows. “We are seeing that in India and the Middle East, but also in the second generation of immigrants to the UK for example”, says MDC researcher Dr. Sofia Forslund, co-chair of the workshop “How Microbial Research is Changing Medicine” at the World Health Summit on October 27th. “This burden of disease is influenced by a change in microbiota. There is increasing evidence that traditional dietary practices with probiotics or fibers can be protective but are at risk of being lost – with devastating consequences.” This is just one example why we need to understand human microbiota better and translate these research findings into medicine and preventative health policies in East and West, North and South alike, she says. 

All mucosal surfaces, including intestines, mouth, airways and urogenital tract, host complex microbial ecosystems. These microbiomes differ between but persist within individuals, they are established early in life, and play crucial roles in processing nutrients, protecting from pathogens and priming the development of the immune system. Shared evolutionary history taught humans to influence their microbiota and vice versa, including through immune and metabolite signaling. Diet, stress, antibiotic exposure, infection and other factors all can perturb these ecosystems and alter them from a helpful to a harmful state (dysbiosis). Dysbiosis contributes – for example – to metabolic, renal, autoimmune and psychiatric dieseases.  

At the microbiome forefront 

The workshop brings together researchers at the microbiome forefront. “We are curious whether our findings resonate with policymakers from all over the world and would love to get their perspectives”, says Forslund.  The researchers are convinced that microbiome analysis offers tools for disease diagnosis and prognosis, personalizing nutrition and drug treatment, epidemiological monitoring, and risk assessment. 

Highlights include a talk by Dr. Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic. He focuses on the role of meat consumption as driver for a heart disease as some metabolites that microbes produce from meat seem to damage vasculature. Professor Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute in Israel on the other hand is able to predict what glycemic response people get from eating the same foods depending on their gut microbiota and also came up with the provocative finding that some probiotics might actually hamper the regrowth of a healthy gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment. And Dr. Stephan Rosshart is convinced that a lot of findings in animal models could be biased because of the sterile conditions the animals live in – therefore, he is creating realistic microbiota in mice without losing control of the genetics.  

The discussion will continue during a one-day symposium on Monday, October 28th, at MDC Mitte (BIMSB). It is supported by the World Health Summit and the SFB 1365 Renoprotection of the DFG. “The symposium will give more scientific detail and hopefully spark new collaborations between Charité, MDC and these leading experts”, says Forslund. 


  • Professor Peer Bork, EMBL - Biocomputing | Bioinformatics | Germany: „The human gut microbiome in health and disease“ 
  • Professor Eran Elinav, Weizmann Institute of Science | Department of Immunology | Elinav Lab| Israel: „Probiotics and the mucosal microbiota“ (preliminary) 
  • Dr. Stanley Hazen, Cleveland Clinic | Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences | United States of America:  „Gut microbes and cardiometabolic disease“ 
  • Dr. Maayan Levy, University of Pennsylvania | UPENN Department of Microbiology | Levy Lab | United States of America: „Identifying new players at the host-microbiome interface“ 
  • Dr. med. Stephan Rosshart, University Medical Center Freiburg | Translational Microbiome Research and Gnotobiotic Mouse Facility | Germany: „Born to be wild, the common link among mammals“ 
  • Dr. Julie Segré, National Human Genome Research Institute | Translational and Functional Genomics Branch | United States of America: „Human Skin Microbiome: bacteria, fungi, viruses“ 

Workshop 06 at the World Health Summit 

October 27th, 2019, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. 

Chairs: Professor Peer Bork, EMBL and Dr. Sofia Forslund, MDC 

Conference center KOSMOS, room Oceania 

Karl-Marx-Allee 131a, 10243 Berlin 

Media accreditation via World Health Summit:  


Scientific Symposium at the MDC 

October 28th, 2019, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 

MDC Berlin-Mitte (BIMSB), main conference room 

Hannoversche Str. 28, 10115 Berlin 

For media accreditation please contact Jana Schlütter:   


Further Information

World Health Summit WS 06: How Microbiomedical Research is Changing Medicine

Scientific Symposium at MDC Berlin-Mitte

Profile of Sofia Forslund

MDC at Berlin Science Week: Cooking for microbiome



Dr. Sofia Forslund 

Head of the Lab “Host-microbiome factors in cardiovascular disease” at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) 
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)   


Jana Schlütter 

Editor, Communications Department  
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)  

+49 30 9406-2121 or   


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the MDC’s locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 60 countries analyze the human system – investigating the biological foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium in a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The MDC therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the MDC today employs 1,600 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.