BIH strengthens translational research: Professor Frank Konietschke joins BIH and Charité to establish a junior group focusing on statistics

On January 1, 2019, Frank Konietschke took up a professorship in statistical methods in translational medicine and early-stage clinical trials at Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. He aims to help the scientists working within the translational research commons to use proper statistical techniques in their research, so as to enable their projects in the fields of personalized medicine, translational research, and rare diseases to yield more precise results.

Translational research is the crucial link between scientific discoveries in the lab and therapies that benefit patients. But the transition from basic research to the clinic is often complicated: In addition to regulatory hurdles, there are also statistical challenges. For example, in the area of personalized medicine in particular, the patient groups on which a new therapy needs to be tested are usually very small. This makes it more difficult to obtain meaningful results. Also, when it comes to rare diseases and early-stage clinical trials, there are often only a limited number of enrollable patients. “In precisely those areas where there is only a small amount of data on which to base statistics, the statistical analysis has to be especially well thought out so as to ensure its validity,” says Frank Konietschke, who has specialized in this field for more than a decade.

Konietschke sees his role as one of helping physicians and scientists to realize ideas by advising them on how to best implement their projects. He has the perfect background for the new position, which involves both research and teaching. After receiving his PhD in mathematics, with honors, from the University of Göttingen in 2009, Konietschke focused mainly on analyzing small sample sizes during his postdoc. He has helped advance the field – both in terms of methodological-theoretical and practical aspects – through more than 50 publications. Konietschke is engaged in international collaborations, including with scientists at the Universities of Ulm and Vienna, Canada’s York University in Toronto, and the US’s University of Kentucky and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Konietschke, who was most recently Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, has also made a name for himself in software development.

At BIH and Charité, Konietschke plans to devote his time to several cutting-edge fields of medicine. One focus will be personalized medicine, where he aims, among other things, to develop new prediction models that will enable improved forecasts to be made of risks, therapies, and quality of life. He also intends to develop new techniques and testing procedures for early-stage clinical trials as well as improved statistical procedures for diagnosing rare diseases so as to facilitate, for example, more reliable individualized therapy recommendations. Konietschke also wants to make new advances in preclinical trials, clinical cohorts, and software development. The BeLOVE study could serve as an application example for new methodological procedures.

The junior group is part of the BIH Platform Clinical Translational Sciences and will expand the research capability of the already existing Biometry Service Unit of the Institute of Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology (iBikE) at Charité.