“Translation turns scientific findings into concrete help for people”

On October 2, 2020, Professor Christopher Baum was officially installed as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) in a ceremony attended by State Secretary Christian Luft (BMBF) and State Secretary Steffen Krach (Berlin Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research). The experienced scientific manager and expert in translation, molecular medicine and gene therapy plans to further develop medical translation into an exact, measurable science, with the aim of providing concrete help to people. Baum succeeds Professor Axel R. Pries, who for the past two years served as interim Chief Executive Officer of the BIH and now will be able to devote himself full-time to his role as Dean of Charité – Universitätsmedizin.

The official installation ceremony was held in compliance with strict hygiene rules at the CharitéCrossOver (CCO) research facility on Campus Charité Mitte, with 50 invited guests in attendance. “As Chairman of the Supervisory Board, I would like to especially thank Professor Axel R. Pries. Over the past two years in his double role as interim Chief Executive Officer of the BIH and Dean of Charité, he has succeeded in unifying the interests of the BIH and Charité. Professor Pries committed himself to ensuring that the BIH had a clear substantive focus and became more visible, thus leaving his mark on the important restructuring process,” said Christian Luft, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). “I am delighted that Professor Baum can build on this foundation. Given his wealth of expertise and strong strategic planning skills, he will certainly continue to successfully lead the restructuring process forward. This will include opening up new avenues in translational research at both the BIH and Charité. I wish Professor Baum every success in his vital new role.”

Steffen Krach, State Secretary at the Berlin Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research, concurred: “In Christopher Baum we have found a recognized expert to lead the BIH. He is also a valuable addition to the healthcare hub of Berlin. We have big plans with our scientific and medical location, and a BIH that is integrated into Charité will continue to play a central role in this regard. I wish Christopher Baum great success in his new role and very much look forward to continue to working with him.”

Transferring knowledge into practice

Christopher Baum outlined his plans for the BIH going forward as follows: “The BIH should be a place that fosters creativity and the spirit of discovery among employees and partner institutions while also equally improving the lives of patients – in other words, providing concrete help to people.” Baum, a trained physician who most recently served as Vice President for Medicine at the Universität zu Lübeck and on the Board of Directors of the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), sees the Institute’s strengths in biomarker development and precision medicine as well as in regenerative therapies and digital medicine. “We could leverage these strengths, for example, to help with diagnostics and therapeutics in particularly difficult and complex cases across Germany,” Baum proposed. “At the same time, such efforts facilitate the further advancement of translational science.”

Christopher Baum defines translation as the transfer of information into action and of knowledge into practice. At the BIH, he wants to further develop the translation process into an exact science whose results can not only be measured quantitatively and objectively but also reproduced. In addition to investigating and treating particularly complex medical problems, Baum believes the digitalization of medicine will open up great opportunities and tasks for the BIH: “An outstanding environment has already been created in the Berlin metropolitan area. Here, I would like to discuss with the various actors which action areas we can jointly pursue.” Baum describes regenerative medicine as being “close to his heart,” as it is a field in which he has collaborated with national and international colleagues to develop gene therapy techniques. “What impresses me most here,” says Baum, “is the further development of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs), such as the advances being made by the Berlin Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT), which has been a part of the BIH for a year now.”

Big plans – strong partners

For the past two years Professor Axel R. Pries had served as interim Chief Executive Officer of the BIH, while at the same time carrying out his role as Dean of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Stepping down from the post left him with mixed feelings. “I very much enjoyed working with excellent colleagues at the BIH to implement our mission of turning research into health,” says Pries, adding: “Whether in digital medicine, in clinical research or most recently in our concrete efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic, we have successfully brought a wide range of translational projects to fruition. On the other hand, I am delighted that in Professor Baum we have found a Chief Executive Officer who will continue to drive all of these areas forward. In my role as Dean, I will continue to work very closely with him, especially on the upcoming integration of the BIH into Charité.”

The BIH was founded in 2013 to speed up the transfer of research results into clinical practice – so-called translation. The two founding institutions are Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). In early 2021, the BIH is set to be integrated into Charité as the third pillar alongside the hospital and research and teaching. Baum will then have a seat on Charité’s Executive Board. Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, Chief Executive Officer of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, welcomed BIH’s new CEO and soon-to-be fellow board member: “I wish Christopher Baum much joy and success in further advancing the translation of research findings and in fruitfully using the synergies with Charité that might arise through the BIH’s restructuring. Christopher Baum is a valuable addition to the research landscape of Berlin, and I look forward to working with him on Charité’s Executive Board.”

The second founding institution of the BIH, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), will become a Privileged Partner of the BIH from 2021. Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the MDC, also commented on the installment of Christopher Baum as CEO: “As a bridge between basic research and clinical practice, the BIH is the ideal partner for us in Berlin. Our scientists provide innovative capabilities in vascular biomedicine and single-cell analysis and help advance technology facilities. The MDC, the BIH and Charité want to further develop the idea of a translational research commons focused on improving the well-being of patients. This includes striving to fill the systems medicine approach – a visionary, holistic method for detecting and treating diseases – with life. We very much look forward to this continued collaboration. I wish Christopher Baum and all of us every success.”

Professor Christopher Baum’s biography can be found here: www.bihealth.org/en/about-us/organization/executive-board/translate-to-englisch-professor-christopher-baum

A photo of Professor Christopher Baum can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/3fvX74C

Christopher Baum discusses what his specific plans are for Berlin in this BIH Podcast (only in German): https://www.bihealth.org/de/aktuelles/mediathek/bih-podcast