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Many biomedical treatments that show promise in lab studies are not as effective when tested on human subjects in clinical research. A systematic documentation and analysis of experiments, as is common in clinical research, has been lacking for such preclinical studies. Neurobiologist Dr. Sarah McCann, a staff member at the QUEST Center of the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité, wants to change that. QUEST is an acronym that stands for Quality, Ethics, Open Science and Translation in Medical Research.

Open platform for results from animal studies

In “COReS: Communities for Open Research Synthesis –- accelerating translation of biomedical evidence,” the project funded by the foundation, McCann wants to establish an open network of scientists who systematically review preclinical results and make their assessments publicly available via a digital platform. Other researchers could use these assessments to better understand the quality of existing findings and experiments and to draw conclusions for their own research, such as whether animal experiments are necessary and, if so, which ones. COReS is a further development of the CAMARADES initiative funded by Charité 3R. The initiative trains researchers on how to carry out systematic reviews and meta-analyses of animal studies in order to produce higher quality animal research while at the same increasing patient benefits. COReS is now expanding these aspects by creating an infrastructure for the systematic evaluation of experimental research and open exchange between scientists.

The Foundation is supporting McCann’s project with up to €668,000 in funding over the next three years.

Improving research quality

“We are extremely grateful to the Volkswagen Foundation for its generous support,” says Professor Ulrich Dirnagl, founding director of the BIH QUEST Center. “This helps us continue to pursue our mission of improving the quality of biomedical research. The support also serves to promote animal welfare, which of course we very much welcome.” If McCann succeeds in establishing systematic review processes in preclinical research, it will be an important boost for biomedicine. In addition, the project has been designed from the outset in such a way that it can be continued even after the Volkswagen Foundation’s support ends. It thus fulfills the most important criteria of the Foundation’s new funding scheme “Pioneering Projects: Impulses for the Science System.”

“With our scheme we want to help researchers and science managers to change the system with their ideas. In this way we believe science will become more innovative and resilient in the face of new challenges,” says Dr. Henrike Hartmann, head of the funding department.

The initiative is a building block in the profile area “Understanding Research – Evaluation and Science Practice,” a part of the Foundation’s new funding strategy that focuses on the science system in order to address optimization needs and to initiate and facilitate change. There will also be funding opportunities for science research in this profile area. Further information will be available on the Foundation’s website in the coming weeks.

For more information about the funding scheme “Pioneering Projects: Impulses for the Science System,” please visit the Volkswagen Foundation’s website here.

For more information about the BIH QUEST Center’s work, please visit here.