2017/03/03

Press Release: Five new chairs for translational medicine at Berlin Institute of Health

Joint appointments with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin launched

Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) is offering the first chairs who will play a central role at BIH as the founding directors of new centers dedicated to key research areas. Five W3 professorship appointments were announced in the fields of digital health, clinical translational sciences, disease modeling, genomic medicine, and cell and gene therapy. These are joint appointments with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and are part of a fast-track procedure. In addition, Professor Ulrich Dirnagl was appointed first chair of the Center for Transforming Biomedical Research.

The transformation of healthcare into a value-based system brings with it enormous challenges for society. Personalized medicine plays a key role in this transformation process. As part of its new scientific “BIH Strategy 2026”, BIH is focusing on new and improved personalized medicine approaches for use in translational research and is expanding two central research programs and four scientific and technological platforms together with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association. The newly appointed Chairs will carry out research in the following areas at BIH:

  • Digital health
  • Clinical translational sciences
  • Disease modeling
  • Genomic medicine
  • Cell and gene therapy

The chairs will not only be assuming top scientific positions; each will also serve as founding director and head of a BIH Center within the scientific research platforms. The four platforms will link up individual activities, enable new forms of collaboration, and pool top-level innovative interdisciplinary research. This affects, for example, central facilities for the clinical research activities of Charité and BIH in the Clinical-Translational Sciences Platform, research initiatives on the implementation of digitization in life sciences and medicine within the Digital Medicine Platform and the BIH Digital Health Center, as well as the pooling research activities from the areas of stem cell biology, genome editing, and disease modeling in the BIH Center for Stem Cell and Disease Modeling.

The individual research topics assigned to each professorship are forward-looking. Research will be conducted into topics such as health informatics, health apps, artificial intelligence, modern imaging techniques and big data, genome editing technologies in cell-based models and/or humanized animal models, iPS cells, individualized 2D and 3D cell cultures, and organoid models. Other key areas will include setting up clinical cohorts and research methods, increasing the biobank activities and establishing a modern translational sequencing pipeline, the use of genome sequences, omics and protected patient data in diagnosis and treatment, experimental genomics, and the development and application of new and regenerative therapies for the personalized treatment of progressive diseases.

“BIH should be a place where scientific innovations are pursued for the good of future medicine,” says Chief Executive Officer Professor Erwin Boettinger. “Progress is the result of dialogue and new alliances. Today, together with the new chairs and the excellent scientists working at MDC and Charité, we want to focus on health issues that are going to be relevant to our society in ten years’ time and thus help turn healthcare into a value-based system.”

The recruiting activities are a crucial part of the new “BIH Strategy 2026”, which the Executive Board developed in 2016. The BIH Strategy 2026 defines the Institute’s most important areas for development and calls for creating and appointing, in all, more than 50 BIH chairs, BIH professorships, and junior group leaders over the next ten years. In partnership with the Charité Faculty BIH has established a fast-track procedure that meets the demands of the competitive global research landscape through an expedited appointment process.

Professor Ulrich Dirnagl appointed first chair

BIH’s innovations will not only emerge from its research programs and platforms; they will also be bolstered by a new technology transfer strategy and the Center for Transforming Biomedical Research. This center is a new unit that will focus on strengthening quality assurance and generalizability of results as well as providing access to research including methods, results, and data. BIH research should be transparent and reliable. Since March, the center is led by Professor Ulrich Dirnagl – a neurologist and stroke researcher at Charité. Ensuring quality standards and reproducibility in biomedical research has been a key aspect of Dirnagl’s scientific work for many years.

Dirnagl studied medicine at LMU Munich, where he worked as a research assistant in the Department of Neurology before transferring to Cornell University in the United States. He came to Charité in 1993, where he was appointed director of the Department of Experimental Neurology in 1999. His additional roles include member of the Board of Directors for the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, director of the Center for Stroke Research Berlin (CSB), and clinical coordinator at the Berlin location of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE).

 

About the recruitment strategy

The BIH Strategy 2026 calls for creating and appointing in all more than 50 BIH chairs, BIH professorships, and junior group leaders over the next ten years. BIH chairs are demonstrated leaders with exceptional academic track records who focus on further developing BIH programs and facilities. BIH professorships distinguish themselves through scientific excellence in the priority research areas of the BIH Strategy and enhance and strengthen the impact of BIH, MDC, and Charité. Junior group leaders are promising early career scientists who are active in the priority research areas of the BIH Strategy.