Three medical scientists, a biologist, a biochemist and an engineering scientist from CAU are among the frequently cited researchers in 2021 with their publications.
Once per year, the Web of Science Group at the American company, Clarivate Analytics, analyses the significance and impact of scientists based on their citation rates. Researchers whose work is cited especially frequently by specialist colleagues are considered particularly significant and influential in their field. The Highly Cited Researchers lists scientists who were involved in several of the top 1% of the most frequently cited papers in their field during the last decade. In 2021 there were 6,602 names on this list. These included five professors from the Faculty of Medicine at Kiel University (CAU) and one from the Faculty of Engineering: Stefan Schreiber, Ralf Baron, Ute Hentschel Humeida, Axel Hauschild, Marco Liserre and Stefan Rose-John. All five were also on the list of Highly Cited Researchers in 2020. Three of the recognised scientists are members of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation” (PMI) and three are doctors and scientists at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel.
Innovative Approaches for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
Professor Stefan Schreiber has been on the list of Highly Cited Researchers for eight years in a row since 2014, often even in two categories. Schreiber has focused his research for many years on the mechanisms of inflammation and the development of new treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases. Building on new molecular findings, he researches innovative approaches to prevent and treat these illnesses. On Schreiber’s initiative, the Inflammation at Interfaces network was formed in 2004, which was funded through the German Excellence Initiative from 2007 to 2018 and has been continued since 2019 as the Cluster of Excellence Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation (PMI). With the goal of treating inflammation holistically instead of focusing on a certain organ, Schreiber developed the idea of an interdisciplinary inflammation clinic. Patients have been treated according to this approach at the Comprehensive Center for Inflammation Medicine at the UKSH, Campus Kiel, since 2009. “We are developing new therapies to be more successful at treating chronic diseases. We therefore need to research intensively in order to improve," emphasises Schreiber, who is currently involved in a study researching the long term effects of a COVID-19 infection. In 2005 Schreiber received the City of Kiel’s Science Prize; in 2020 he received the renowned Research Prize from the United European Gastroenterology Foundation (UEGF) umbrella organisation to develop new treatments for people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases based on molecular nutritional intervention.
As a leading principle investigator, he has monitored over 80 clinical trials in the field of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, and was the lead investigator in over 50 of these. He is a member of numerous professional associations, has chaired multiple national and international conferences, is the co-editor of international journals and the author or co-author of more than 950 publications in scientific journals.
Standardised Diagnostics and Personalised Treatment for Nerve Pain
For around 30 years, Professor Ralf Baron has been exploring the mechanisms behind the formation and chronification of nerve pain, as well as the treatment of neuropathic pain syndromes. In the early 2000s he founded the "German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain" (DFNS). Large databases were established within this German-wide network and patients were precisely characterised according to their complaints. The network is now mainstream throughout Europe and pools research groups which are active in the field of nerve pain. This made it possible to form subgroups of patients who might benefit from a specific type of treatment. “It is a step towards personalised medicine in the field of treating pain,” Baron explains. Special techniques have been developed which help to identify the different originating mechanisms of pain. These techniques have been incorporated into the guidelines for clinical trials. Baron is currently working with his research team on investigating the mechanisms of nerve regeneration; he is looking for ways to encourage damaged nerves to mature again. “With a technique like this, we would take a major step towards managing to completely heal nerve pain,” says Baron.
Baron was awarded a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for research at the University of California in San Francisco, is a co-publisher of and reviewer for numerous medical journals, has received multiple awards and prizes, and together with his research team has published over 400 original papers, review articles and book contributions. He is co-publisher of the book "Praktische Schmerztherapie" (Practical Pain Therapy), the fourth edition of which appeared in 2019. Baron has been spokesperson of the "German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain” since 2001, which aims to fundamentally improve medical treatment for people with nerve pain.
Professor Ute Hentschel Humeida has been the head of the Research Unit “Marine Symbioses” at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel since 2015. She has been researching symbiosis, which describes cohabitation between different species from which both species benefit, for around 20 years. Her area of expertise is marine sponges, which live in symbiosis with countless, often yet unknown microorganisms. “Sponge microbiomes are some of the most complex microbial consortia whatsoever. Sponges can be host to several thousand different species. Their metabolism and chemical composition is correspondingly diverse. This is not only of significance for marine ecology, but is also of interest to the pharmaceutical industry,” explains Hentschel Humeida, who conducted research in California/USA for ten years, including at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, USA, one of the oldest, largest and most important marine research institutions in the world. Hentschel Humeida’s working group is focusing its research on gaining a better understanding of the physiology, metabolism and molecular mechanisms of the interaction between sponges and their microbial partners. Today, the roughly 8,500 known species of sponge populate all wet habitats of the earth, from coastal regions through to the deep seas, even rivers and lakes. “Sponges dominate vast areas of the sea floor in the deep sea. Many of these sponge-filled regions have only been recently discovered. We still don’t know nearly enough about these ecosystems,” says Hentschel Humeida.
She has published around 200 articles in scientific journals as author or co-author, is the co-editor of scientific journals and an expert for the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and international institutions.
Therapeutic Advances in Malignant Melanoma
Since his time as an assistant physician over 30 years ago in the Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, UKSH, Campus Kiel, Professor Axel Hauschild has been interested in skin cancer, particularly in extremely aggressive malignant melanomas. Over the past few years, the introduction of new medications has been able to significantly improve treatment in advanced stages of this disease. “The 5-year survival rate, which is used as a measure for prognosis, was just 5 percent in 2010 for advanced melanoma, and is now at 52 percent. No other type of tumour has made this kind of progress up to now,” emphasises Hauschild, who played a major role in this success. Hauschild was the lead investigator on over 120 clinical studies on various types of skin cancer, has been invited to more than 700 conferences around the world and has published upwards of 400 articles in scientific journals.
In recognition of his clinical and scientific achievements for skin cancer treatment, Hauschild received the German Skin Cancer Prize in 2003 and the German Cancer Prize in 2011 from the German Cancer Society. He is on the board of the European Association of Dermato-Oncology and the Melanoma World Society, was the president of the German Cancer Congress twice and in 2021 he was president of the World Congress of Melanoma for the second time, where he was elected president of the Melanoma World Society (MWS). The MWS is the successor society to the WHO Melanoma Group. It aims to coordinate research activities and improve the treatment of people suffering with skin cancer around the world.
New Technologies for the Energy Transition
Professor Marco Liserre was researching regenerative energies very early on in his career and thereby laying the foundations for other research groups. His research on converters linked to the power grid, which enable the introduction of regenerative energy sources into the grid, was pioneering work in this field. These systems are necessary in order to use energy from photovoltaic and wind power plants, and efficiently convert this into electrical energy for our daily needs. Together with his working group, Liserre has developed a power transformer which converts medium voltage into low voltage with minimal energy loss and a high level of reliability, and thereby also enables DC power input and power flow control. The new components from power electronics could help to distribute the electricity according to demand, as well as counteracting overloading and outages. This can boost the system’s resilience, which will become necessary considering the increase in extreme weather events resulting from climate change. His working group also focuses on electrical drives for industrial automation and mobility. Liserre’s group is currently working on developing and testing innovative battery systems for intelligent grids and electric mobility. The state of Schleswig-Holstein funded an appropriately equipped lab in 2020 with just under €2 million. “The aim is to extend battery ranges and lifespans and reduce charging times by combining new semiconductor materials like silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) and new battery technologies,” explains Liserre.
Liserre is the author of over 500 technical publications, and is co-author of the book "Grid Converters for Photovoltaic and Wind Power Systems", which has also been translated into Chinese. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and has already received numerous awards. In 2014, Liserre received two million euros from the European Research Council (ERC) for a project researching towards an intelligent and flexible electricity network. In 2018 he received ERC funding to make key developments from the project ready for the market.
Regulating Inflammatory Processes
Professor Stefan Rose-John is an internationally sought-after expert on the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6). The biochemist identified the crucial importance of this messenger substance in inflammatory processes over 20 years ago and has since been systematically researching its structure and mechanism. In 2001 he published the spatial structure with which IL-6 binds to one of its receptors in the renowned scientific journal Science and thereby laid the foundations for further research. He also verified that Interleukin-6 works via two signalling pathways. The pivotal trigger for chronic inflammation is the trans-signalling pathway he discovered, which involves the binding of an IL-6 receptor that is soluble in blood and tissue and can stimulate all cells in the human body, while processes of cell regeneration and the normal protective immune response are regulated via the classic signalling pathway. This discovery enabled the targeted inhibition of only those signals from Interleukin-6 which promote inflammation.
Rose-John developed the designer protein sgp130Fc, which specifically blocks the Interleukin-6 trans-signalling pathway and thereby inhibits inflammation. This is the first time ever that it has been possible to inhibit the inflammatory activity of a cytokine like Interleukin-6 without compromising its protective and regenerative effects. Under the name of Olamkicept, the protein has already been tested in phase 2 clinical trials at the UKSH under the leadership of Professor Stefan Schreiber and in one additional study in China on people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases with extremely positive results. A phase 3 clinical trial is currently being prepared, which is the prerequisite for the approval of Olamkicept as a pharmaceutical product.
“What distinguishes my working group and makes us extremely valuable partners for many labs around the world is that we have the best molecular tools to investigate the signalling pathways of IL-6,” emphasises Rose-John, who has headed the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 877 "Proteolysis as a Regulatory Event in Pathophysiology" since 2010.
Rose-John is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg and in 2005 he was awarded the City of Kiel’s Science Prize, as well as the Jacob-Henle Medal from the University of Göttingen in 2019.
The list is based on analysis of the "Web of Science Core Collection" database. The database records scientific publications from around 21,000 specialist journals. The period from 2010 to 2020 was analysed for this year's list of Highly Cited Researchers. The ranking is an important indicator of the influence of scientific publications, which are among the top 1% of the most cited in their respective field. In 2021, the list featured 6,602 of the world's scientists from 21 research categories. This included 24 Nobel Prize winners. Two scientists from Kiel were recognised in the category “Cross Field”, which considers interdisciplinary work and the influence of the researchers in several fields over the past decade.
Prof. Dr. Stefan Schreiber
Department of Internal Medicine I, UKSH
Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, CAU Kiel, UKSH
Prof. Dr. Ralf Baron
Department of Neurology, UKSH
Section for Neurological Ache Research and Therapy
Prof. Dr. Ute Hentschel Humeida
GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Research Area 3: Marine Ecology
Prof. Axel Hauschild
Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, UKSH
Dermatological Oncology working group
Prof. Dr. Marco Liserre
Institute of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology
Prof. Stefan Rose-John
Executive Director of the Institute of Biochemistry
Kiel University (CAU)