Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine
Interdisciplinary scientific network by BIH, Charité and Max Delbrück Center
Mission and Structure
The Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine, jointly founded by the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center, represents an interdisciplinary scientific network with the pronounced aim to foster translation in the field of vascular biomedicine. It unites leading scientific knowledge with clinical expertise and thereby promotes the transfer of scientific insights to clinical use.
The Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine (VasBioBerlin) integrates research activities at three major life science institutions - the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Max Delbrück Center and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. With this, the Center shapes an unprecedented cluster and nucleus that connects and inspires vascular biology research activities in Berlin. Through the synergistic approach of the Center creativity, know-how and technologies are bundled to ultimately develop new therapies and personalized approaches for diagnostics and treatment of a variety of progressive diseases.
VasBioBerlin aims to prevent and revert morbidity and progressive end organ damage in vascular diseases by unravelling, conceptualizing and treating local and systemic causes and clinical manifestation of vascular dysfunction. It combines interdisciplinary experimental and clinical research on the basis of clinical cohorts, novel humanized disease models and generative computational modelling approaches.
Guided by the integrative nature, vascular research benefits from and nourishes research activities in neuroscience, cardiovascular, renal and metabolic research, immunology and cancer, pursuing cross-organ questions of vascular biomedicine and offering manifold interactions with the existing research activities in Berlin. Translational vascular biomedicine ultimately aims to develop strategies for personalized treatment of vascular diseases, inspire interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians with a translational mindset and research agenda, and train new generations of pioneering translational scientists.
Composition of the Center
The Center is governed by the Focus Area Committee, which develops the strategic direction in agreement with the Board of Directors from BIH, Charité and the Max Delbrück Center, coordinates the award of project funds within the Center and fosters the scientific exchange by hosting scientific events. The Focus Area Committee is composed of 12 senior scientists (see table below) and meets meets monthly.
Focus Area Committee
Holger Gerhardt (speaker)
Group leader “Integrative Vascular Biology“ (MDC), Professor for Experimental Cardiovascular Research (Charité), DZHK Professor (German Center for Cardiovascular Research), BIH Professor
Birgit Sawitzki (speaker)
Group leader at the Institute of Medical Immunology, Professor for Translational Immunology (BIH, Charité)
Michela Di Virgilio
Group leader, “Genome Diversification & Integrity “(MDC, Charité)
Director of the Department of Nephrology and Medical Intensive Care, (Charité)
BIH Johanna Quandt Professor for Translational Human Organ Models (BIH at Charité), Department of Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine (Charité)
Group leader “Genetics and Genomics of Cardiovascular Diseases“ (MDC)
Director of the Institute of Physiology (Charité)
Director of the Medical Department of Cardiology (Charité), Medical Director of the Charité Center 11 for Cardiovascular Diseases
Dominik N. Müller
Group leader “Hypertension-Mediated End-Organ Damage“, (Experimental and Clinical Research Center, ECRC & MDC)
Group leader “Molecular Epidemiology”(MDC)
Group leader "Angiogenesis & Metabolism" (BIH, Charité)
Professor of Medicine and Cardiology (BIH, Charité), Vice Director of the Department of Cardiology (Charité)
Additionally, an external sounding board with international experts from the field advises the Center regarding its international visibility, the selection of project funds and the strategic development of the Center. It is composed of the following members:
Klaus Ley (La Jolla Institute for Immunology, USA)
Ton Rabelink (University of Leiden, Netherlands)
The current Core Faculty of the Center includes Prof. Holger Gerhardt (Max Delbrück Center, Integrative Vascular Biology) and Prof. Michael Potente (BIH, Angiogenesis & Metabolism). The faculty was recently expanded with the recruitment of Dr Daria Bunina (Systems biology of cardiovascular and neuronal pathologies) and Dr Yoichiro Sugimoto (Molecular mechanisms of environment sensing). All research groups are located at the Käthe-Beutler Building on Campus Buch. More information about the research groups can be found here.
Malfunction of blood vessels plays a central role in many diseases. So far, research and therapy have mainly focused on the larger blood vessels, particularly the arteries. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that disorders in small blood vessels play a particularly important role in the development of disease and the resulting organ damage. Examples include vascular dementia, diastolic heart failure, kidney failure and angina pectoris. Recent findings also show the importance of (micro) vascular mechanisms in immune response and inflammation.
In order to address the deficit in translational approaches in this area, the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine (VasBioBerlin) integrates research activities at three major life science institutions - the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Max Delbrück Center and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Under the roof of a new research building, the Käthe-Beutler-Haus on the Buch campus, a unique translational focus is created under the joint control of basic researchers and clinicians. The aim is to decipher the local and systemic causes of vascular malfunctions so that clinical manifestations can be treated. Interdisciplinary teams work in a bottom-up approach on central issues to address the most important clinical challenges in the personalized diagnosis and treatment of vascular disease. For this purpose, cohort studies, and research on humanized disease models, as well as computer-aided modelling approaches, are combined to develop new approaches for prevention, diagnosis and therapy. Three main goals of VasBioBerlin have been defined by the community:
Define and Treat Endothelial Dysfunction & Inflammation
Reverse Vascular Remodeling to Improve Organ Function
Build and Instrumentalize Vascularized Organoids
The Core Faculty of the Center includes Dr. Daria Bunina (Max Delbrück Center, Systems Biology of Cardiovascular and Neuronal Pathologies), Prof. Holger Gerhardt (Max Delbrück Center, Integrative Vascular Biology), Prof. Michael Potente (BIH, Angiogenesis & Metabolism), and Dr. Yoichiro Sugimoto (Max Delbrück Center, Molecular mechanisms of environment sensing).
Furthermore, the Center is financially supporting collaborative and innovative projects implementing translational pipelines that bridge basic and clinical science in vascular biomedicine. VasBioBerlin does not only provide seed funding but also supports high-risk/high-gain projects. During the first project call in June/July 2020, the Center received 27 eligible applications from researchers and clinician scientists from BIH/Charité/MDC, which were evaluated by the Center’s External Sounding Board. Based on the evaluations, the Steering Committee selected 10 projects to be funded for a two-year period.
The following projects have been selected during the first project call:
Circulating endothelial cells as a tool to determine pneumonia patients at risk of acquiring cardiovascular diseases
Ulrich Kertzscher (Charité)
Martin Witzenrath (Charité), Norbert Hübner (Max Delbrück Center)
Clonal hematopoiesis and ischemic stroke
Matthias Endres (Charité)
Frederik Damm (Charité), Paulina Strzelecka (Charité), Cristopher Arends (Charité), Thomas Liman (Charité)
Deciphering physiological mechanisms of reverse pulmonary vascular remodeling in pulmonary hypertension
Christoph Knosalla (Charité)
Wolfgang Kübler (Charité), Norbert Hübner (Max Delbrück Center), Mariya M. Kucherenko (DZHB, Charité)
Expanding the application of retinal blood vessel analysis
Hanna Zimmermann (ECRC)
Oliver Zeitz (Charité), Martin Witzenrath (Charité), Oliver Peters (ECRC), Kristin Kräker (ECRC), Ralf Dechend (ECRC), Friedemann Paul (ECRC), Anja Mähler (ECRC), Stefanie Märschenz (NCRC), Sein Schmidt (Charité)
Gut microbiota related determinants of disease severity, risk of vascular events and clinical outcome in Covid-19
Arash Haghikia (Charité)
Sofia Forslund (Max Delbrück Center), Andras Balogh (Max Delbrück Center), Jennifer Kirwan (MDC, BIH)
Mapping the renal vascular endothelium in health and acute kidney injury
Christian Hinze (Charité, Max Delbrück Center)
Kai Schmidt-Ott (Charité), Philipp Enghard (Charité), Nikolaus Rajewsky (MDC-BIMSB), Kai-Uwe Eckardt (Charité), Sebastian Bachmann (Charité), Birgit Rudolph (Charité), Jonas Busch (Charité)
Post-preeclampsia - common mechanisms in microvascular dysfunction cause for cardiovascular and retinal end organ damage
Ralf Dechend (ECRC)
Dagmar Kainmüller (BIH, Max Delbrück Center), Kristin Kräker (ECRC), Nadine Reichhart (Charité), Olaf Strauß (Charité)
T-cell-endothelium interactions in the pathophysiology of coronary- and cellular-therapy-initiated inflammatory disease
Theresa Gerhardt (Charité)
Olaf Penack (Charité)
The COVID-19 puzzle – The microvascular barrier as a missing piece between coagulation and organ failure
Wolfgang Kübler (Charité)
Holger Gerhardt (MDC), Philipp Mertins (MDC), Nikolaus Rajewsky (MDC-BIMSB), Martin Witzenrath (Charité), David Koppstein (MDC-BIMSB), Laura Michalick (Charité), Anna Szymborska-Mell (MDC)
Translational approach to understand, diagnose and treat vascular malformations
René Hägerling (Charité)
Susanne von der Heydt (Charité)
Lecture Series “Vascular Networking”
Pursuing its mission, the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine (VasBioBerlin) initiated the Lecture Series “Vascular Networking” in February 2021 to invite distinguished experts and promote international scientific exchange to both enrich the Berlin scientific community and provide the foundation for new and visionary collaborations. The lecture series takes place on the last Wednesday of every month at 3 pm CET. It is conducted in an online-format and attracts a broad audience from the wider Berlin community. The event comprises a 45 min talk and a 15 min open discussion followed by a 1 hour closed exchange with 3-4 interested experts.
Katrien De Bock (ETH Zürich) - “Endothelial Metabolism and Cellular Crosstalk in the Muscle”
Saskia C.A. de Jager (University Medical Center Utrecht) - “Inflammation in the Failing Heart: From Biomarker Towards Therapeutic Intervention?”
Ingrid Fleming (Goethe University Frankfurt) - “Relevance of Protein Post-Translation Modification by Hydrogen Sulphide for Vascular Disease”
Paul Riley (University of Oxford) - “Targeting the Cardiac Lymphatics to Optimise Heart Repair”
Filippo Crea (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome) - “Mechanisms of Acute Coronary Syndromes”
Manuel Mayr (King's College London) - "Multiomics approaches for systems biology in human cardiovascular disease"
Mark Kahn (University of Pennsylvania) - "Signaling mechanism in cardiovascular disease"
Anjali Kusumbe (University of Oxford) - "Vascular Control of Tissue Ageing and Regeneration"
Claudia Langenberg (BIH @ Charité) - "What can blood-based omics deliver for clinical translation?"
Karina Yaniv (Weizmann Institute of Science) - "Vascular heterogeneity in organ growth and regeneration"
Sara S. Nunes de Vasconcelos (University of Toronto) - "Multicellular vascular systems as fundamental tools in discovery and regeneration"
Hellmut Augustin (University of Heidelberg) - "Vascular mulitomics to decipher endothelial functional angiodiversity"
Kristy Red-Horse (Stanford University) - "Development, regeneration, and repair of coronary blood vessels in the heart"
Klaus Ley (La Jolla Institute for Immunology) - "Elongated neutrophil-derived structures in the blood circulation"
Lena Claesson-Welsh (Uppsala University) - "Vascular Impact on Tissue Function"
8 December 2021: Project Midterm Check-in meeting
The project leaders and partners of the VasBio-funded projects (see project table) met with members of the Focus Area Committee for a mid-term check-in meeting after the first year of the 2-year funding period. The focus of this mini-symposium was not only on the scientific progress, but also on challenges that arose due to the Covid-pandemic and other factors. This small interactive group meeting encouraged further exchange and cross-fertilization between the different projects.
5 November 2021: Berlin Science Week panel discussion “Cardiovascular Health in the Time of COVID-19”
As part of Berlin Science Week, members of the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine (Holger Gerhardt, Michael Potente and Birgit Sawitzki) discussed together with Leif Erik Sander (Charité) and Emanuel Wyler (MDC) the key aspects of cardiovascular health in context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The online panel was chaired by Vesna Todorovic, chief editor of the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research.
21 October 2021: Recruitment Symposium: Independent Group Leader Position in Data Science
Five candidates were invited to present their research in the field of Data Science in a half-day symposium.
27 January 2021: "Ocular Diagnostics of Endothelial Dysfunction", joint workshop with the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC)
The joint online workshop put current methods from ocular diagnostics into the context of endothelial dysfunction. 61 researchers and clinicians interested in current methods to study endothelial functionality and diagnose dysfunctions participated in the workshop. The diverse speaker panel presented different techniques, together with case studies, followed by an open discussion. This event rose awareness about locally available equipment and techniques to analyze endothelial functionality in humans and animal models. Furthermore, an exchange about knowledge on possible applications for population-based screens, as well as target-oriented research took place. The participants agreed that the area of ocular diagnostics offers unique opportunities to transfer scientific methods into translation and clinical use and that it is important to mirror preclinical data into the clinical situation.
9 December 2020: Project Workshop
One year after the kick-off event, the VasBioBerlin community met online to examine current developments and to discuss how the pandemic impacted vascular biomedical research. The focus of this workshop was the presentation of 10 research projects that had been selected for funding by VasBioBerlin. (More information of the funded project can be found here.) In breakout sessions, the participants exchanged their experiences from the pandemic and identified advantages and challenges of newly developed models and methods.
19 and 20 May 2020: Covid-Workshop
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, VasBioBerlin organized an online-workshop in 2 sessions (May 19 and 20, 2020) to encourage an interdisciplinary exchange about planned and ongoing COVID-19-related research activities in Berlin. 29 interested BIH, Charité & MDC researchers and clinicians with diverse backgrounds participated and developed concepts on how to gain a greater understanding of the endothelial and vascular component of COVID-19. Based on short presentations of their research projects and studies in session 1, participants used session 2 to discuss and develop new approaches on 1) how to analyze endothelial dysfunction phenotypes in COVID-19, 2) How to study the heterogeneity of vascular end organ involvement in COVID-19, and 3) how to model vascular pathomechanisms of COVID-19 ex vivo.
10 December 2019: Kick-off Workshop Translational Vascular Biomedicine
On December 10 2019, over 60 researchers and clinicians from BIH, Charité, and MDC came together for the kick-off workshop at the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB). In the course of 20 flash talks, the participants presented current issues and unmet clinical needs in the area of vascular biomedicine. Based on the topics presented, participants subsequently split up in three interest groups, “Endothelial Dysfunction and Inflammation”, “Vascular remodeling”, and “Vascularized Organoids”, where they discussed and defined central questions and relevant diseases of the field and outlined promising translational approaches. VasBioBerlin is using the results gained in the workshop to further specify its translational aims.
Vascular biology plays an important role in many diseases in different areas of medicine. In Berlin, we have significant clinical expertise and we have excellent research in this area.
To better connect different stakeholders and to improve the basis for deeper clinical and research collaboration in vascular biomedicine, we have created the Berlin Vascular Biomedicine Board. This board consists of basic researchers and technology platform leaders as well as clinicians of diverse clinical areas. We are an open group and we are looking for participants of different career levels. So please join us.
We are planning 3-4 yearly meetings of two hours each, in which we will discuss vascular disease patterns and patient cases from different clinics. A focus will be on state of the art techniques that can be used to diagnose or treat vascular diseases. In each meeting, we will present clinical cases and technologies that are of broad interest to our community of vascular biomedicine enthusiasts.
Our next upcoming meeting will be on February 26, 2024 at 3-5 pm at Auditorium CCO, Charité Campus Mitte, Virchowweg 6.
Magdalena Danyel and René Hägerling and (both Charité) will present “Rare Vascular Diseases - Clinical Cases and Diagnostic Strategies”
Youssef Abdelwahed and Denitsa Meteva (both Charité) will present “Joint application of intravascular imaging and local immunophenotyping in acute coronary syndrome”
Norbert Hübner (MDC) will introduce us to the faculty of the new Helmholtz Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience (HI-TAC) in Heidelberg/ Mannheim
The board is hosted by Nicolle Kränkel and Olaf Penack (both Charité), supported by the VasBio coordinators Tanja Florin (MDC), Ira Magdalena Rohrpasser-Napierskowski (BIH) and Susann Kleinsimon (Charité) as well as the speakers of the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine Holger Gerhardt (MDC) and Birgit Sawitzki (BIH).
On November 21, 2023, a significant event unfolded at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, bringing together 38 participants, including clinicians, clinician scientists, basic researchers, and technology platform members. The event was organized by the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine and representatives from Charité, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) were in attendance. The gathering marked the inauguration of the VasBioMed Board, an interdisciplinary vascular expert panel and an important driver for translation in the field of vascular biomedicine in Berlin.
The kick-off event aimed to establish the foundation for the VasBioMed Board by fostering collaboration and dialogue among professionals from various disciplines within the realm of vascular research and medicine.
1. Clinical Case Presentations:
The program commenced with four insightful presentations of clinical cases (see list below). Clinicians and clinician scientists, many of whom where affiliated with the Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine shared their experiences, challenges, and innovative approaches in managing vascular conditions. These presentations served as catalysts for stimulating discussions among the participants.
2. Discussion Sessions:
Following each clinical case presentation, participants engaged in lively discussions. The interactive nature of these sessions allowed for the exchange of ideas, insights, and best practices, creating a dynamic and collaborative atmosphere.
3. Poster Presentations:
During snack and coffee breaks, participants had the opportunity to explore poster presentations showcasing various methods and technologies relevant to vascular research. This interactive format facilitated networking and the exchange of expertise among attendees.
4. Panel Discussion:
Another highlight of the event was a panel discussion focused on shaping the future of the VasBioMed Board. Together with the moderator Birgit Sawitzki (BIH @ Charité), the panelists Holger Gerhardt (MDC), Olaf Penack (Charité) and René Hägerling (Charité) deliberated on the format, framework, aim, and structure of the upcoming interdisciplinary panel. The discussion touched upon key aspects, including the board's mission, goals, and strategies for promoting collaboration across institutions.
The event proved successful in fostering connections among clinicians, researchers, and technologists in the field of vascular biomedicine. The diverse backgrounds and expertise of participants set the stage for a robust interdisciplinary collaboration.
Through the discussions and presentations, common themes and priorities in vascular research emerged. This will guide the VasBioMed Board in defining its focus areas and objectives.
Importantly, the kick-off event laid a solid foundation for the VasBioMed Board, providing a blueprint for its future activities. The insights gathered will inform the board's structure and activities in the coming months.
Clinical Case Presentations
Microangiopathy after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT)(O. Penack, Department of Hematology, Oncology and Cancer Immunology)
Perioperative Management of Patients Undergoing Complex Vascular Surgery (O. Hölsken, Clinic for Anesthesiology and surgical intensive care)
A cryptic case: isolated perivascular T-Cell Infiltration and brain edema (K. Röhrs, Clinic for Neurology with Experimental Neurology)
Autoimmune vascular disease in the ICU: a treatment challenge (A. Schreiber, Department of Nephrology and Medical Intensive Care & ECRC)
Benefits of Retinal Imaging for Vascular Biomedicine (AG Zimmermann, ECRC)
Canonical type I interferon signaling and immune regulatory potential of non-classical monocytes characterize the asymptomatic disease course of SARS-CoV-2 infected children (L. Petrov et al. Charité, BIH @ Charité)
Clinical Research Unit: Cardiovascular studies (A. Mähler et al., ECRC)
Clinical Study: InFlame – How does an inflamed gut affect vascular function (ECRC)
Microvascular imaging as early predictor for cardiac dysfunction after preeclampsia (AG Müller/Dechend, ECRC)
Plasma proteogenomics to inform vascular health and drug target identification (M. Pietzner et al., BIH)
Polarity-Jam: an image analysis toolbox for cell polarity, junction and morphology identification (W. Giese et al., MDC)
Proteomics Technology Platform Overview (L. Suarez Artiles,… P. Mertins)
Untargeted metabolomic imaging using desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) close to single cell metabolomics (U. Bruning, J. Kirwan, BIH @ Charité)
Dr. Tanja Florin Scientific Coordinator Max Delbrück Center (MDC) Robert-Rössle-Str. 10 | 13125 | Berlin E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Ira Rohrpasser-Napierkowski Scientific Coordinator Berlin Institute of Health @ Charité (BIH) E-mail: Ira.Rohrpasser@charite.de
Dr. rer. nat. Susann Kleinsimon Scientific Coordinator