The Outpatient, Translation and Innovation Center (Ambulanz-, Translations- und Innovationszentrum – ATIZ) is currently being built in Berlin-Mitte, directly adjacent to Charité’s main patient care facility. The existing building, which formerly housed surgical, intensive care and emergency units, was gutted for reconstruction and will in the future be used jointly by the Berlin Institute of Health and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. All project milestones have been met despite the coronavirus pandemic. Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek and Governing Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Science and Research Michael Müller paid tribute to the successful progress of the construction work at a topping-out ceremony.
Almost exactly a year ago, Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek and Governing Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Science and Research Michael Müller paid a visit to Campus Charité Mitte. On that day – July 10, 2019 – they signed an administrative agreement on the integration of the BIH into Charité. Returning to the same site for the topping-off ceremony of the ATIZ building, they got a first-hand look of how the two Berlin health institutions’ contractually agreed-upon cooperation is being put into place on the ground. “Our idea for integrating the BIH into Charité facilitates the further advancement of the BIH’s innovative and cutting-edge translational health research, which transfers basic research findings into clinical practice,” said Research Minister Anja Karliczek. Governing Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Science and Research Michael Müller, added: “Berlin is the right place to create the medicine of tomorrow. The state-of-the-art ATIZ facility shows that step by step we are implementing our plan to not only combine world-class medical research with the best in patient care, but also to transform our city into a leading international healthcare hub. I am pleased that we have been able to work in unison with the federal government and wish everyone involved in the building project continued success.”
BIH’s integration into Charité gets a face
The Executive Board members of the BIH and Charité thanked the federal government and the State of Berlin for generously funding the structural restoration of Charité’s former surgery and intensive care wing and transforming it into a modern and spacious research, innovation and patient center. Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, Chairman of the Executive Board of Charité, emphasized: “The past months of the coronavirus pandemic have shown the tremendous importance of combining basic research with the practical clinical application of research results. The ATIZ brings together the translational medical research of Charité and the BIH and gives the BIH’s integration a face.”
“This building will enable leaders in medical research and clinical practice to work together under one roof,” said a delighted Professor Axel R. Pries, interim Chairman of the BIH Executive Board and Dean of Charité, adding that “this will make the interaction between translational medicine at the BIH and the clinical centers and research institutes at Charité tangible. Only when all partners work closely together can we turn research into health.”
Astrid Lurati, the Chief Financial and Infrastructure Officer at Charité, praised in particular the constructive collaboration on this ambitious building project: “The BIH has put €49 million toward the development of the ATIZ, while the State of Berlin has contributed an additional €32 million through Charité. This highlights the special cooperation and also reflects the connecting function of the building.”
Close and transparent collaboration under one roof
The modern six-story research building, which contains 14,875 square meters of floor space, will unite the BIH’s innovative patient-centric translational research and Charité’s medical care under one roof. It plans to house a joint translation center for international research groups, complete with state-of-the-art spaces for labs, offices and technology facilities; an innovation center with dedicated space for biomedical technology transfer; and a patient center of the BIH Clinical Research Unit equipped with examination and treatment rooms for clinical trials. Charité will have complementary research spaces in ATIZ, which will be used for overarching studies. Patients will also receive care there outside of studies, such as in the Oncological Outpatient Department and Day Case Unit as well as in the Skin Care Center of the Department of Dermatology and its surgical and functional units. In addition, the Simulation and Training Center will provide training to physicians within and outside Charité on how to use next-generation technologies and methods.
The architect Dr. Alexander Gyalokay, from the architectural firm Heinle, Wischer and Partners, used a model of the ATIZ building to explain how the concept of translational medicine was implemented from an architectural standpoint. “The central idea behind our proposal was to bring medical research and clinical practice as close together as possible and to make the processes on both sides transparent. The close vicinity of the ATIZ building to Charité Bettenhaus Mitte, the main patient care facility, enables a direct connection between the two areas, which is also achieved through ample spaces for communication. The two-story entrance lobby provides a space for the public to encounter and experience the techniques used and discoveries made by the clinicians and scientists working in the ATIZ building.”
Studies, data and COVID-19
In a moderated discussion, researchers from BIH and Charité presented a number of translational research projects investigating the coronavirus. Professor Christof von Kalle, BIH Chair for Clinical Translational Sciences and Director of the BIH Clinical Study Center at Charité, reported on the challenge of coordinating, on very short notice, all the studies being conducted on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. As spokesperson of the COVID-19 Research Board of Charité and BIH, Professor von Kalle, together with Sylvia Thun, BIH Professor for eHealth and Interoperability, prepared a consensus data set for COVID-19 patients in all German university hospitals. The data set, which is subject to rigorous data protection standards, contains all relevant information, starting with personal data like age, gender, height, and weight, followed by lab results like blood pressure readings or cholesterol levels, risk factors, medication use, as well as symptoms and therapeutic procedures performed. Data from research labs are also recorded in a standardized way and then shared on servers specifically reserved for this purpose. Christine Goffinet, BIH Professor for Virology at Charité, described her experience as an AIDS researcher who suddenly found herself thrust into coronavirus research and how she keeps up with hundreds of inquiries from the public and policymakers without neglecting her research into the virus. And Professor Roland Eils, Chair and Founding Director of the BIH Digital Health Center, reported on exciting insights from the analysis of single cells taken from the respiratory tract of COVID-19 patients. All are looking forward to the day when they will be able to work together under one roof at the ATIZ.
Second BIH building in Berlin-Buch
A second building for BIH researchers is currently being built in Berlin-Buch, in cooperation with the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). The Käthe Beutler Building on the Buch campus will house research groups working in translational vascular medicine. Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the MDC, is excited about the start of research operations in the Käthe Beutler Building in early 2021: “Through the collaboration between the MDC and the BIH, an outstanding research cluster is emerging in Berlin in this very promising field.”
In the topping-out address, Mehmet Coskun, the lead builder, summed up the delight of everyone involved over the successful completion of the shell construction:
“Proud, modern and always with new ideas,
Over there we behold thee, Charité.
On your existing foundation,
known far and wide among the medical profession,
a new venue is being created,
where knowledge and practice will soon be fused.
Wonderfully united in the ATIZ
are the BIH and Charité.
The first stage is now complete,
May the building soon shine in new splendor.”