DFG Funding: Two Collaborative Research Centres and two CRC/Transregio Successful

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The four research consortia in medicine receive finance amounting to approximately 63 million euros

Portrait Wolfgang Wick | © Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg
Portrait Wolfgang Wick | © Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg

In the current approval round of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Heidelberg University has been successful with four applications to fund large research consortia, receiving funding worth a total of approximately 63 million euros. Two Collaborative Research Centres on the topic of chronic pain and malignant brain tumours will continue for four more years each at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg. Likewise extended is a CRC/Transregio on dermatological and immunological questions, in which Heidelberg medics cooperate with partners in Tübingen and Mainz. In addition, scientists from the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH), who are also members of Ruperto Carola, are playing a major role in a transregional consortium in Berlin, Dresden and Mannheim on how to deal with addictive drugs. The office of spokesperson will change to CIMH in Mannheim.

It is the second funding phase for Collaborative Research Centre "Understanding and targeting resistance in glioblastoma" (CRC 1389), with its studies aimed at combating resistance to the treatment of these malignant brain tumours. Existing treatment strategies lead sooner or later to resistance to therapy where the fundamental molecular mechanisms have been only partially understood, if at all, for most of the procedures generally regarded as standard. The scientists want to achieve "treatability" by a comprehensive approach. To this effect, they intend to push ahead with the clinical implementation of the research findings, examining more intensively not only the initial illness but also the progression phase. The CRC approach centres on the "Core Collection", which brings together uniform, integrated datasets from high through-put procedures for molecular analyses, preclinical models, imaging and clinical data. Spokesperson for CRC 1389, with its funding of around 14.9 million euros, is Wolfgang Wick, Executive Director of the Neurology Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital and Head of the Clinical Cooperation Unit Neurooncology at the German Cancer Research Center.

In Collaborative Research Centre "From nociception to chronic pain: structure-function properties of neural pathways and their reorganization" (CRC 1158) the scientists involved examine how acute pain turns into chronic pain. They focus on changes in nerve cells and nerve pathways. To that effect, they have already been able to elucidate important molecular and cellular mechanisms. In the third and last funding period, researchers will particularly explore how this chronicity can be prevented or reversed. The aim is for chronic pain to be treated and prevented not only by administering new medication but, inter alia, also by neuromodulatory and cognitive intervention. The CRC Spokesperson is still Rohini Kuner, Director of the Institute of Pharmacology at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University. The DFG has allocated around 17.5 million euros to fund the Collaborative Research Centre.

Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio "The skin as sensor and effector organ orchestrating local and systemic immune responses" (CRC/TRR 156) explores the question of what role the skin plays in warding off pathogens. A central element here is regulating systemic immune responses since immune cells in the skin not only trigger a local response to certain stimuli but can also cause the whole immune system to respond. In this context, the researchers in CRC/TRR 156 study how immune cells in the skin interact with one another and also with other skin cell types. They want to gain new insights into how different cell types in the skin influence other immune cells and hence the body’s multi-layered resistance to disease. The third funding period will concentrate on the clinical application of research findings, for example by conducting studies on human auto immune diseases. The Spokesperson of CRC/TRR 156 remains Alexander Enk, Executive Director of the University Dermatology Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital. The transregional consortium is organised jointly by the universities of Heidelberg, Tübingen and Mainz. It is receiving funding of around 14.3 million euros.

The research studies in the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio "Losing and regaining control over drug intake" (CRC/TRR 265) aim for a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for people losing control over their drug consumption. The researchers work at the behavioural, cognitive and neuroscientific level to identify the triggers and influencing factors for such loss of control. They are investigating the underlying neurobiological and learning mechanisms for developing mechanism-based therapies. In the second funding period, the office of spokesperson of CRC/TRR 265 will change from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin to the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim. The new Spokesperson is Rainer Spanagel, Scientific Director of the Institute for Psychopharmacology based at the CIMH and holder of a professorship at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University. Partners in CRC/TRR 265, with its around 16.3 million euros in funding, are Heidelberg University, Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Charité), and Technische Universität Dresden.