Translational and Systems Medicine Research

The general research approach of Berlin Institute of Health combines translational research with an overarching systems medicine approach. This means that results of basic research will be transferred into medical therapies, diagnosis, and prevention in a faster and more targeted way, and clinical observations will be taken up more quickly by basic research. In other words, a knowledge transfer occurs "from bench to bedside and from bedside to bench". Research results may stem from various specialized areas – medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, information technology, and the social sciences.

Systems medicine is based on an understanding that the human body is a complex system consisting of dynamic, interconnected networks of molecules, cells, and tissues. Research in systems medicine involves the study of molecular mechanisms in the human body in an integrative manner. Rather than diseases being understood as the malfunction of individual cells or organs, attention is paid to overarching processes influencing both health and disease. Clinical symptoms can have a number of molecular causes, and inversely a genetic defect can spark various diseases. For example, inflammatory disease can affect various organs including the skin, the intestines, and the lungs.

Systems medicine at BIH means pursuing a process of reciprocal exchange between basic biomedical research, clinical research, and medical practice. Establishing this process thus forms an essential part of fulfilling our mission to make scientific and technological developments in systems medicine accessible for designing new preventive measures, diagnosis, and therapy.

Research Programs

To reflect our two priorities, BIH’s research is focused on two core programs:

Personalized medicine for progressive diseases

Understanding how progressive diseases develop, both in general and specific cases, is key to finding treatments for them.

Objective: To develop and apply better markers and models for predicting and understanding progressive disease.

Approach: Interdisciplinary research groups will use cutting-edge systems-medicine techniques to investigate the role and interactions of failing biological systems in progressive diseases. This approach is unique in that it will focus on comprehensive – “deep” – characterization of patients, comprehensive studies of the make up and interplay of biological systems and big data analyses.

Development: Research initiatives within the program will be promoted through targeted funding, infrastructure and recruitment of researchers.

Advanced therapies for progressive diseases

Advanced therapies, such as nanoscale, gene and cell therapies, offer great potential for improving the lives of people with progressive diseases by helping to replace or regenerate damaged tissue.

Objective: To promote, through interdisciplinary research, the development of advanced therapy technologies and their personalized application in patients with progressive diseases.

Approach: Research initiatives will focus on developing new therapies for use in replacement or regeneration of damaged tissues, genetic modification of stem cells for treatment of rare genetic disorders and cell-based personalized tumor-targeting immunotherapy.

Development: Research into advanced therapies, in particular regenerative therapies, is already underway at BIH, Charité and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. BIH will further merge and develop these areas, targeting funding at new state-of-the-art facilities and the recruitment of researchers.

Research platforms

BIH’s four research platforms will be anchored by center-like units where innovative technologies, methods and research structures are developed to support the two core programs. Each will build on or draw together existing facilities in the transational research commons and interact with additional structures of Charité and MDC. They focus on: