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Irmela Jeremias to Head New Research Unit for Stem Cell Research

Starting July 1, 2017, the cancer researcher Professor Irmela Jeremias will head the newly established research unit Apoptosis in Hematopoietic Stem Cells (AHS). So far, she worked as a research group leader in the Research Unit Gene Vectors at Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Prof. Dr. Irmela Jeremias

Prof. Dr. Irmela Jeremias, Source: Haunersches Kinderspital der LMU / Woelke

“Our vision is to develop new treatment strategies and options for leukemia patients, where blood cells proliferate in an uncontrolled manner,” Jeremias describes her motivation. This is a difficult task, as cells of the blood and the immune system divide at an extremely high rate - between 100 million and a billion times daily, experts estimate. “When these cells degenerate and become malignant, cancer diseases develop, which are often difficult to treat with current therapies,” Jeremias explained.

With her newly established research unit, she aims at elucidating those cellular structures that represent suitable targets for anti-cancer therapy. Jeremias and her team will focus on leukemia stem cells. They want to isolate these cells from affected patients and genetically modify them using a lentiviral approach. One objective is to initiate apoptosis (programmed cell death) in these cancer stem cells.

“We will also look for mechanisms of stem cell resistance to chemotherapy and for new therapeutic approaches, which may be found in dysregulated epigenetic processes,” Jeremias said. In accordance with this approach, the new research unit is assigned to the research area of stem cell biology. Jeremia’s research has a clear translational focus as she additionally works as pediatrician in the Oncology Department of the Dr. von Haunersches Children’s Hospital of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Irmela Jeremias has led the Apoptosis Research Group, which was initiated as a Junior Research Group, since 2005 as part of the Research Unit Gene Vectors (Head: Professor Wolfgang Hammerschmidt). Since 2001 she has been working as a pediatrician in the Oncology Department of the Dr. von Haunersches Children’s Hospital. In 2012 she received a prestigious grant for excellent women scientists from the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. At the beginning of 2016, she received a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for her research work, and in February 2017, she was appointed at LMU as Mildred Scheel Research Professor funded by the German Cancer Aid. In addition, Jeremias is a founding and board member of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) "Genetic and Epigenetic Evolution of Hematopoietic Neoplasms" of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and since 2012 part of the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK).

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,500 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.