Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine
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 for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association, 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 for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) 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 Steering Committee, which develops the strategic direction in agreement with the Board of Directors from BIH, Charité and MDC, coordinates the award of project funds within the Center and fosters the scientific exchange by hosting scientific events. The Steering Committee is composed of nine senior scientists, see table below. The Steering Committee meets monthly.
Holger Gerhardt (spokesperson)
Group leader “Integrative Vascular Biology“ (MDC), Professor for Experimental Cardiovascular Research (Charité), DZHK Professor (German Center for Cardiovascular Research), BIH Professor
Kai-Uwe Eckardt (deputy spokesperson)
Director of the Department of Nephrology and Medical Intensive Care, (Charité)
Michela Di Virgilio
Group leader, “Genome Diversification & Integrity “(MDC, 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
Group leader “Molecular Epidemiology”(MDC)
Group leader "Angiogenesis & Metabolism" (BIH,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 (MDC, Integrative Vascular Biology) and Prof. Michael Potente (BIH, Angiogenesis & Metabolism). 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 for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) 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 currently includes Prof. Holger Gerhardt (MDC, Integrative Vascular Biology) and Prof. Michael Potente (BIH, Angiogenesis & Metabolism). Though the Center is expanding its research activities through targeted recruitment of leading international experts.
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 (MDC)
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 (MDC), 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 (MDC), Andras Balogh (MDC), Jennifer Kirwan (MDC, BIH)
Mapping the renal vascular endothelium in health and acute kidney injury
Christian Hinze (Charité, MDC)
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
09:10 Tin Yau Pang (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)Modeling to understand evolutionary constraints
09:40 Bastiaan Spanjaard (MDC) Phenotype changes in regeneration and disease
10:10 Daria Bunina (EMBL Heidelberg) From multi-omics to mechanisms of cell differentiation and diseases
10:40 Yoichiro Sugimoto (Francis Crick Institute, London) Understanding the molecular basis of environmental sensing – an RNA-centricperspective
11:10 Wenyu Zhang (MPI for Evolutionary Biology, Plön) Transferring evolution discoveries into the human genetic study: the interrogation of the effects of gene retrocopy variants on causing human genetic diseases
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.
Previous speakers are:
Katrien De Bock (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) - “Endothelial Metabolism and Cellular Crosstalk in the Muscle”
Saskia C.A. de Jager (University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands) - “Inflammation in the Failing Heart: From Biomarker Towards Therapeutic Intervention?”
Ingrid Fleming (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany) - “Relevance of Protein Post-Translation Modification by Hydrogen Sulphide for Vascular Disease”
Paul Riley (University of Oxford, UK) - “Targeting the Cardiac Lymphatics to Optimise Heart Repair”
Filippo Crea (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy) - “Mechanisms of Acute Coronary Syndromes”
Manuel Mayr (King's College London) - "Multiomics approaches for systems biology in human cardiovascular disease"
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.
Dr. Tanja Florin
Scientific Coordinator Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Robert-Rössle-Str. 10 | 13125 | Berlin E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PD Dr. Mareen Matz
Scientific Coordinator Berlin Institute of Health (BIH)
Phone: +49 30 450 543025