PERSONALIZED MEDICINE, ADVANCED THERAPIES: FROM RESEARCH TO HEALTH
The Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) has a social mission: to translate innovations from the lab to the clinic. Its overarching aim is to help people who suffer from progressive diseases. To achieve this, the Institute focuses on developing new therapies and diagnostics that not only improve or maintain quality of life but also create value. In 2016, the BIH formulated a research strategy – the BIH Strategy 2026 – that will shape its activities in the coming years.
BIH aims to pioneer a new model of value-based, personalized medical care by conducting world-class translational research and by leveraging a systems medicine approach that produces innovations.
BIH is dedicated to improving the prediction of progressive diseases and developing advanced therapies for unmet medical needs in order to restore or maintain people’s quality of life.
The BIH carries out translational research itself, and also supports such research. This means that innovative concepts are moved from the lab into clinical practice, requiring the translational process to go through certain steps: from initial lab tests and preclinical trials to first-in-man studies and clinical trials, all the way to widespread use in society. But conversely, it is important that experiences and observations from the clinic are taken back to the lab to ensure that research projects address medical problems.
- Create more precise diagnostics for progressive diseases.
- Develop and put into practice advanced therapies for the personalized treatment of progressive diseases.
Here, the BIH places priority on advancing digitalization, on involving patients, on taking a systems medicine (i.e., cross-disease) approach, and on setting new standards for quality assurance in medical research.
The BIH Biomedical Innovation Academy aims to train a new generation of physicians. It sets aside time for physicians to pursue translational research projects during their residency.
The BIH is implementing two translational research programs. In the research program
Personalized Medicine for Progressive Diseases
the Institute is working on creating better individualized diagnostics for progressive diseases while also developing new markers and models for such diseases. One key research area in this program will be vascular biomedicine, and its clinical research focus will be single-cell technologies for personalized medicine.
In the research program
Advanced Therapies for Progressive Diseases
the Institute is developing personalized therapies for patients with progressive diseases. A key research area in this program will be regenerative therapies.
Four scientific-technological research platforms complement the translational research programs. They provide scientific services and research infrastructure (e.g., the Core Facilities and the Clinical Research Unit), develop innovative methods and technologies, as well as perform research. Scientists and clinicians from the BIH, Charité, and the MDC have teamed up in the research platforms to collaborate on projects.
Digital Medicine Platform
The mission of this platform is to make research and clinical data more usable and accessible. It focuses particularly on:
- the linking of research and health data,
- modeling and simulation,
- artificial intelligence,
- the digitalization of patient data for use in research,
- digital solutions that facilitate patient interaction and involvement, and
- mobile healthcare apps.
Clinical Translational Sciences Platform
The mission of this platform is to improve the quality of clinical trials.
Strongly interlinked translational research requires not only a good infrastructure but also the availability of well-characterized patient cohorts and samples from such cohorts. The platform offers various services and provides support to clinical translational research projects. There are plans to set up a Clinical Study Center, which will act as a central point of contact for principal investigators. The platform focuses particularly on:
- creating patient cohorts for cross-disease issues,
- developing best practice models for quality-assured design and for clinical trials involving patients,
- establishing a broad-based system of patient consent as the standard for patient recruitment, and
- securely storing and processing patient samples (cellular and tissue specimens) in a state-of-the-art automated biobank.
All activities should be designed in such a way that enables the linking of the clinical translational research being conducted by other clinical healthcare organizations and research institutions in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.
Multiscale Omics Platform
The mission of this platform is to improve the omics technologies used in translational and clinical research and to apply such technologies to personalized medicine.
Omics technologies refer to analytical procedures that map
- the set of all proteins (proteomics),
- the genes (genomics), or
- the metabolites (metabolomics)
present in a cell or tissue. These enable researchers to investigate the causes of diseases and to analyze the role of genes and of gene variations and mutations, the role of proteins and of metabolites, and the role of the microbiome (the vast ecosystem of bacteria in the gut) in the development of progressive diseases.
Humanized Model Systems and Cell Engineering Platform
The mission of this platform is to develop and improve humanized model systems, organoids, and in silico models for translational research and to use such techniques to test advanced therapies.
The development of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, CRISPR-Cas9 technology, and other genome-editing technologies – such as those based on enzymatic systems in bacteria – have revolutionized biomedical research. Living models can now also be used to study the behavior of human tumor tissue, pluripotent cells, and human pathogens, as well as to investigate how these interact with human immune systems. Among other things, this research platform seeks to further develop advanced stem cell research and modeling technologies, to create high-throughput methods based on humanized models, and to use such innovations to study molecular targets and agents for therapeutic intervention.
Innovation drivers – pushing forward translational research
The BIH Strategy 2026 attaches special importance to two further organizational units: the technology transfer unit Berlin Health Innovations and the BIH Quest Center, the latter of which seeks to drive forward the transformation of biomedical research so that it can become more innovative, more open, and more reliable.
BIH QUEST Center and BIH Academy
With the BIH QUEST – Center for Transforming Biomedical Research, the BIH has established a research unit that strives to increase the value and benefit of biomedical research by maximizing the quality, reproducibility, generalizability, and validity of BIH research.
The QUEST Center is also home to the BIH Biomedical Innovation Academy, which organizes training and support for clinician scientists. Physicians undergoing residency training receive 50 percent “protected” time for research projects. During this time, they can also take advantage of additional training offerings and professional development programs as well as interdisciplinary networking formats.
Berlin Health Innovations – the joint technology transfer unit of the BIH and Charité
A new technology transfer strategy is expanding the BIH’s innovation capacity. Its core elements include a programmatic, holistic approach, functional governance structures, and the resources needed to facilitate the quick translation of research findings into clinical practice and into new medical products for patients. The primary aim is to achieve a long-term, sustainable impact rather than a short-term return on investment.
Berlin Health Innovations is also home to the Digital Health Accelerator, a program that helps young inventors bring their innovative ideas for digital health solutions to market.
The Validation Fund / SPARK-BIH funding program supports the development of novel therapeutics (small molecule or biologic), medical devices, diagnostics for unmet medical needs, as well as repurposing of existing drugs for new indications. The program aims at the validation of research findings and translation into therapies, products or services. For this purpose, the projects benefit from the SPARK-BIH advisors and mentoring network.