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Prof. Sander left the United States in 2011 to join Charité, where he was named Professor of Immunology of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology in 2016. His work focuses in particular on immune response and the development of immune defenses via vaccination and infection. Prof. Sander and his team have undertaken several research projects on COVID-19 since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, such as on improper immune responses in severe COVID-19 cases, the effects of COVID-19 vaccines, and issues of compatibility and effectiveness when mixing different COVID vaccines. Prof. Sander is a member of the Charité/BIH COVID-19 Research Board. His clinical focus includes the treatment and prevention of infections of the lungs and airways, highly contagious infections, and personalized therapy for infectious diseases.

More than COVID-19

“Infectious diseases (ID) is a dynamic field where we regularly have to deal with new illnesses. COVID-19 is just the most recent example. In addition, ID is a classic interdisciplinary field that thrives on interaction with just about all other medical specializations. This interaction makes it especially exciting. Furthermore, we’ve been dealing with enormous challenges since long before COVID-19. Changing ecosystems, increasing population density, and worldwide mobility foster the appearance of new infectious diseases. At the same time, many antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against old, familiar pathogens due to the spread of resistant bacteria. We ID specialists have a bit of catching-up to do in the realm of modern, so-called advanced therapies. And of course we need new vaccines to prevent infectious diseases, as prevention is always better than treatment. The dynamism of this field and the amazing interdisciplinary atmosphere at Charité and the BIH – with the outstanding tradition of infectious medicine in Berlin – make this great new assignment so exciting,” Prof. Sander explained.

Prof. Witzenrath became Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Charité in 2012 and was named Deputy Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine in 2017. His clinical focus is on pulmonary medicine and infectious diseases, as well as respiratory and intensive medicine. His research interests include pneumonia, diseases of the pulmonary vessels, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and respiratory therapies. “Since I started working at Charité, my goal has been to facilitate translational respiratory research from patient to molecule and back. Thanks to an amazing team of systems medicine researchers, we are able to study various mechanisms experimentally and analyze treatment options in clinical studies. The special appeal of our work and a portion of our success lies in our relationship with excellent representatives of other disciplines at Charité and around the world,” Prof. Witzenrath explained. In addition, he pointed out that “respiratory medicine, as the largest clinical discipline within internal medicine, treats patients with a wide variety of acute and chronic diseases. We aspire to provide the highest level of respiratory care at all three inpatient Charité campuses, while at the same time always keeping our focus on the individual.”

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Prof. Witzenrath has been closely involved in the care of COVID patients and research activities at Charité. In addition, the internist is one of the directors of the Charité/BIH COVID-19 Research Board. The Research Board was created in March 2020 to coordinate research projects at Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH). This forges an even deeper connection between research and patient care and facilitates access to research data. “From the very beginning of the pandemic, we at Charité were determined to actively conduct research on COVID-19 in collaboration with the BIH and to examine options for treatment. As part of this effort, we have established numerous preclinical and clinical research projects at Charité. Our collaboration also lets us share resources and technology, and it promotes synergy between the institutions,” Prof. Witzenrath emphasized.

Prof. Leif Erik Sander

Prof. Sander was born on May 31, 1977 in Oldenburg. After completing his Abitur, he did his examen philosophicum at the University of Oslo and then studied human medicine at Hanover Medical School from 1998 to 2005. He pursued his clinical training in internal medicine, respiratory medicine, and infectious diseases at Aachen University Medical Center and at Charité. From 2008 to 2011 he conducted research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York on a DFG fellowship, after which he entered the DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme. In 2012 he started his Charité research group and received the Theodor Frerichs Prize from the German Society of Internal Medicine. In 2016 he was named Professor of Immunology of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Charité.

In 2021 Prof. Sander became a member of the German government’s expert panel on the coronavirus pandemic, the “ExpertInnenrat der Bundesregierung zu COVID-19.”

Interviews/Podcasts with Prof. Leif Erik Sander (in German only):

Dr. Stefanie Seltmann

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