On October 1, 2017, Dr. Petra Ritter assumed the position of BIH Johanna Quandt Professor for Brain Simulation at Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. This W2 professorship is funded by Stiftung Charité.
The focus of Dr. Ritter’s research is personalized brain simulation. She and her team at the Charité Department of Neurology with Experimental Neurology have joined forces with international partners to create the open-source neuroinformatics platform The Virtual Brain. To produce the simulations, Ritter and her team are integrating data gathered from patients who have, for example, experienced a stroke or developed a brain tumor. The result is a personalized brain model for every patient, which contributes towards a better understanding of disease processes in the brain and enables the development of new therapy approaches. The principle is simple: the more data scientists are able to integrate, the more precise the model becomes. “My vision is that, in the future, the treatment of brain disorders will be planned using a digital copy of the person’s brain,” says professor Petra Ritter. The Virtual Brain also allows her and her team to simulate possible scenarios of disease progression, potentially allowing future treatment plans to be modified early on.
Ritter has been at Charité since 2001. As part of her BIH Johanna Quandt Professorship, she wants to expand The Virtual Brain platform with the help of scientists working within Charité’s and MDC’s translational research commons. First, the platform is to be made more user-friendly so as to ensure it is accessible to as wide a circle of clinicians and scientists as possible. Second, the model is to be gradually developed and validated. Close collaboration is also planned with the Human Brain Project, an EU Flagship Project that, similarly to the Virtual Brain, collects anonymous patient data and makes it available to scientists for use in research on the human brain. “We are delighted that we have been able to gain such an extraordinarily innovative scientist with Dr. Ritter,” says Professor Martin Lohse, spokesperson of the BIH Executive Board. “Ritter’s computational techniques not only help scientists ‘read minds,’ they also help them to understand what’s going on in the brain of every individual suffering from diseases such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s. That provides the foundation for developing new therapies.”
With the BIH Johanna Quandt Professorships, the Charité Foundation supports the establishment of three W2 professorships at the BIH, specifically for women. All professorships are connected with a long-term perspective from the very beginning and therefore are model experiment for a real tenure track. Another special feature of the BIH Johanna Quandt Professorships is that the applicants themselves determine the area of their professorship. The decisive factor for the selection was the innovative and interdisciplinary orientation with a translational approach. With the BIH Johanna Quandt Professorships, BIH, Charité and Stiftung Charité are helping to ensure equal opportunities within the Berlin health-research sector.