What a week! The Leibniz Association has announced the establishment of three ScienceCampi in the university city of Kiel. This was decided by the Senate of the Leibniz Association in Berlin yesterday (Thursday 17 March). The three include the new evolutionary medicine centre “Evolutionary Medicine of the Lung” (EvoLUNG). As the first institute of its kind in Germany, EvoLUNG will receive subsidies of around 4 million Euros over the next four years (2016 to 2020). The state of Schleswig-Holstein will contribute half a million Euros to the project, which is being run by the Research Center Borstel (FZB), Kiel University (CAU) and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön (MPI-EB).
The goals of the new ScienceCampus EvoLUNG are the interdisciplinary research of serious lung diseases based on evolutionary scientific methods, and potentially the development of new therapies for diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis or chronic bronchitis. In this new initiative, the leading biomedical research institutes state-wide are coming together, to create an unparalleled interdisciplinary research environment in evolutionary medicine. “EvoLUNG is another excellent example of the top-level interdisciplinary research in the north – and the cooperation between various research institutes. The decision of the Leibniz Association is a major milestone for Schleswig-Holstein as a science location,” said Minister of Science Kristin Alheit.
The scientific tasks for EvoLUNG cover three core topics: the first research area looks at the origin and spread of treatment-resistant pathogens in the lungs. The second research area focusses on the evolution of disease-causing genes in humans, especially those genes that give an advantage to lung diseases. The third research area investigates the interaction between disease-causing genes, microorganisms, pathogens and the environment as factors in disease development in the lungs.
“In spite of major progress in diagnosis and treatment, lung diseases are still spreading globally, and are a leading cause of death. With the interdisciplinary research of the underlying evolutionary mechanisms of disease development, we are opening up a completely new perspective on how to combat these urgent medical and societal challenges,” said Professor Stefan Ehlers, CEO of the Research Center Borstel of the Leibniz Association, about the importance of the new initiative.
With the establishment of the evolutionary medicine research centre EvoLUNG, unique in Germany, the project partners FZB, CAU and MPI-EB are achieving pioneering work in the science location Schleswig-Holstein. The potential of the new centre lies especially in teamwork/networking of the institutes involved. “The locations of Borstel, Plön and the CAU have achieved significant research successes in the areas of evolutionary theory, experimental evolution and evolutionary genomics”, explained FZB Professor Stefan Niemann, spokesperson of the new Campus. In addition, they have specialist knowledge of the functional analysis of disease-causing genes, of researching the interaction between host and pathogens, and of chronically inflammatory lung diseases, especially tuberculosis and asthma. In the EvoLUNG project they can combine these strengths to make decisive advances in researching serious lung diseases.
“The EvoLUNG centre makes it possible, for the first time, to research a whole spectrum of lung diseases from a fundamentally evolutionary perspective,” emphasised Professor Tal Dagan from the CAU. Professor Hinrich Schulenburg, also from the CAU, said: “With the help of evolutionary medicine, we want to gain a new understanding of lung diseases, in order to identify new treatment approaches in future.” John Baines, Professor at the Max Planck Institute in Plön, added: “A great strength of this research alliance lies in the balance between researching the causes of diseases and expertise in evolutionary theory. We at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology can make a contribution by examining the model organisms generally used in biomedical research from a unique evolutionary perspective.”
Prof. Stefan Niemann
Molecular and Experimental Mycobacteriology, FZB
Tel.: +49 (0)4537 - 188 - 7620
Prof. Hinrich Schulenburg
Department of Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics,
Zoological Institute, Kiel University
Tel: +49 (0) 431-880-4141