A total of 27 million euros for special research areas at the Heidelberg Faculty of Medicine


A successful Collaborative Research Center (CRC) can start its third funding period, a new one is added / A total of eight CRCs are located at the Heidelberg Faculty of Medicine / New CRC on heart research: deciphering molecular circuits of heart disease for tailored therapies / CRC on infection research extended: how viruses and parasites spread and how the body fights them

The German Research Foundation (DFG) will be supporting two Collaborative Research Centers (CRC) at the Heidelberg Faculty of Medicine (MFHD) with a total of around l26.9 million euros over the next four years: The DFG granted a third funding period to the already existing and successful CRC on infection research. A new addition is a CRC on heart research. "As dean, I warmly congratulate all the researchers involved and thank them for their outstanding commitment. The DFG's decision recognizes their excellent scientific work and advanced concepts. As the spokesperson of CRC 1129 on infection research, I am very pleased about the approval of a third funding period in which we can continue to pursue our projects. Equally important is the approval of a new CRC on heart disease, a designated focus of the Heidelberg Faculty of Medicine and the Heidelberg University Hospital," says Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich, Dean of the MFHD. A total of eight CRCs are currently based here, and Heidelberg researchers are involved in a further eleven CRCs.

The new CRC 1550 "Molecular Circuits of Heart Disease" aims to lay the foundations for novel tailored therapies for congenital and acquired heart diseases. To this end, a wide range of data is being collected on the influence of the environment on genes and their products, on metabolism, and on the clinical pictures of affected individuals, in order to uncover the neuralgic switches in the molecular development of disease by means of computer-assisted network analyses, as well as to confirm them experimentally, and finally to use them for the development of new therapies. The spokesperson is Professor Dr. Johannes Backs, Director of the Institute of Experimental Cardiology at Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD). Deputy spokesperson is Professor Dr. Norbert Frey, Director of the Clinic for Cardiology, Angiology and Pneumology at the UKHD. The CRC is funded with approximately 14 million euros in the first funding period. The project teams include the MFHD, the Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

In CRC 1129 "Integrative analysis of Pathogen Replication and Spread", the scientists focus on the interactions between pathogens and host. The spokesperson of the CRC, which is now funded with 12.9 million euros (previously 10.8 million euros and 13.1 million euros), is Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich, Director of Department of Infectious Diseases at UKHD. In addition to researchers from the center, scientists from four other faculties of Heidelberg University as well as from EMBL, DKFZ and several Max Planck Institutes are involved.

Goal: Tailor-made therapy for heart diseases

Heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide - and the number of people affected continues to rise. Despite significant therapeutic advances, drug therapies for heart failure due to various causes of heart disease are increasingly reaching their limits. "To advance therapies for heart disease, we urgently need targeted and tailored treatment approaches that stop the disease from developing," says Prof. Johannes Backs, MD. "Recent advances in disease models and so-called multi-OMICs techniques - the joint analysis of, for example, changes in the genetic makeup, protein makeup and metabolic activity in heart tissue - are giving us insights into the complex causes of heart disease as an interplay of genetic variations, environmental influences and lifestyle. In our new CRC, we will link data from experimental model systems and patient data with mathematical methods, among other things, to decipher the molecular circuits activated by various causes. In doing so, we will lay a foundation for tailored therapeutic approaches and preventive strategies."

Understanding and Controlling Viral and Parasitic Infections

How do viruses and parasites spread in the human body? How does the body manage to fight off these pathogens? CRC 1129 investigates the multiple interactions between pathogen and host that lead to the multiplication and spread or, alternatively, to the control of an infection. The integrative approach involves bringing together scientists from different disciplines, such as infection biology, biophysics, nanotechnology and chemical biology, who collaborate in particular at the Center for Integrative Infectious Diseases Research (CIID) on the Heidelberg campus. "On the one hand, we study infection on tissues in order to be as close as possible to the situation in the living organism and to understand the effects on the organism as a whole, but on the other hand, we also study it at the cell and molecule level in order to characterize each individual interaction as precisely as possible," says Prof. Kräusslich. Based on these observations, new therapeutic approaches are to be developed in the long term. The researchers are focusing particularly on common human pathogens, such as those of AIDS, malaria, hepatitis and influenza. However, the mechanisms and principles studied can also be applied to other infectious diseases, as demonstrated in the current funding period for SARS-CoV-2.

Heidelberg scientists also involved in CRCs at other universities

In this year's funding period, the following Collaborative Research Centers involving scientists from the Medical Faculty Heidelberg (MFHD) are also being funded:

CRC 1328 "Adenine Nucleotides in Immunity and Inflammation" (based at the University of Hamburg, participation of Prof. Freichel, Pharmacological Institute of the MFHD) is entering its second funding period and investigates the role of specific building blocks of DNA and RNA, so-called adenine nucleotides, as signaling molecules in inflammatory and immune responses. The focus is on how calcium channels in the cell envelope and in acidic cell compartments of certain immune cells trigger and control inflammatory responses of the immune system.

The CRC/Transregio 152 " TRiPs to Homeostasis: Maintenance of Body Homeostasis by Transient Receptor Potential Channel Modules" (located at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, participation of Prof. Freichel and Prof. Siemens, both Pharmacological Institute of the MFHD) is already entering its third funding period. Here, molecular mechanisms for the development of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and thromboses are investigated, as well as how the human body regulates parameters that are essential for survival, such as body temperature, and what function the so-called TRP ion channels have in this process.

The SFB 1531 "Damage Control by the Stroma-Vascular Compartment" (located at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, participation of Prof. Leuschner, Heisenberg Professor of Immune Cardiology, MFHD) is funded for the first time. The newly established Collaborative Research Center investigates the differences and similarities of healing processes after organ damage due to deficient perfusion, for example in heart attacks and strokes.

Collaborative Research Centers of the German Research Foundation

The aim of Collaborative Research Centers is to promote innovative, elaborate, and long-term research projects that transcend the boundaries of disciplines and institutions. In addition to scientific aspects, the promotion of young researchers and the equality of researchers also contribute to the successful outcome of the DFG's demanding selection process.

Further information on the Internet

2022 funded CRCs with participation MFHD in spokesperson function

CRC 1129 "Integrative analysis of Pathogen Replication and Spread":
Department of Virology at the UKHD

CRC 1550 " Molecular Circuits of Heart Disease":
Institute for Experimental Cardiology at the UKHD

2022 funded CRCs with participation MFHD
CRC 1328 "Adenine Nucleotides in Immunity and Inflammation":
Institute of Pharmacology at MFHD

CRC/TRR 152 " TRiPs to Homeostasis: Maintenance of Body Homeostasis by Transient Receptor Potential Channel Modules":
Institute of Pharmacology of MFHD

CRC 1531 "Damage Control by the Stroma-Vascular Compartment":
Heisenberg Professorship of Immunocardiology at UKHD


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