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Research Funding

Helmholtz Zentrum München involved in six CRCs

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) to promote cutting-edge research in Germany. Recently, six CRCs with involvement of Helmholtz Zentrum München were granted or extended. The total funding will be around 2.7 million Euros.

Source: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The four-year funding period will start as of July 2018. As the application has to be effected by a university, all projects with Helmholtz Zentrum München are coordinated either by Technical University of Munich or Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich. Altogether Helmholtz Zentrum München is part of 16 different SFBs/TRRs* with 34 subprojects.

Modelling and Targeting Pancreatic Cancer (SFB 1321/1)

The scientists will investigate the biological characteristics of highly aggressive and largely therapy-resistant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). They believe that only a comprehensive mechanistic understanding of the pancreatic carcinoma with its unique characteristics will lead to a long-term improvement in the prognosis for patients affected. Helmholtz Zentrum München is contributing with three projects: Dr. Kerstin Stemmer and Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp will investigate the underlying mechanisms of how obesity contributes to carcinogenesis in the context of the pancreas, thereby paving the way to the development of preventive interventions. Conversely, pancreatic cancer is also affecting systemic metabolism, which becomes manifest in the particularly strong association of pancreatic cancer with the wasting syndrome, also known as cachexia. Dr. Mauricio Berriel Diaz and Prof. Dr. Stephan Herzig will identify and functionally characterize tumor-born mediators of PDAC-associated cachexia. The third project which is led by Dr. Christina Scheel and Dr. Maximilian Reichert (TUM) will investigate and target cellular plasticity in specific pancreatic cancer models. This aspect is particularly relevant given that the highly dynamic regulation of plasticity programs impinge on metastasis as well as therapeutic resistance of PDAC, both accounting for the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer. The funding for the three projects is 1,023.000 Euros.

Emergence of Life: Exploring Mechanisms with Cross-Disciplinary Experiments (TRR 235/1)

The goal of this CRC/Transregio  is to test, in the laboratory, various hypotheses about the emergence of life. This will be made possible through close collaboration between researchers from the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry, the geosciences and physics. The scientists, including Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin of Helmholtz Zentrum München, expect that their research contributes to learning more about the origin of life. The funding volume for the center is around 472,000 Euros.

TRiPs to Homeostasis: Maintenance of Body Homeostasis by Transient Receptor Potential Channel Modules (TRR 152/2)

The project, which has now been extended, focuses on a large protein family: the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. TRiPs control numerous physiological functions and play a key role in numerous metabolic processes. However, the TRP channels are still poorly understood, and their detailed role in diseases is subject of the here funded CRC. Helmholtz scientists involved in this project are Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp and Dr. Timo Müller, both experts on the temperature sensitive TRiP channel Trpm8. This TRiP channel is involved in energy balance regulation and influences signaling pathways in the central nervous system, adipose tissue and the pancreas. Within this CRC, the Helmholtz scientists want to evaluate the pharmacological potential of Trpm8 pathway modulation for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. For their endeavor, Tschöp and Müller receive around 434,000 euros funding.

Chemical Biology of Epigenetic Modifications (SFB 1309/1)

Epigenetic modifications are small chemical groups found on proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). These modifications may lead to changes of the modified molecules with regards to their stability, location in the cell or interactions. Despite their apparent importance, however, relatively little is known about the types or sites of modifications in existence. How they are attached and removed and what overall impact do they have on the proteins and nucleic acids on which they are found? As one of two Helmholtz researchers Prof. Dr. Michael Sattler, who is an expert in structural biology, will investigate the effect of RNA modifications on the structure of non-coding RNAs and RNA-protein interactions. With his expertise in biochemistry and chromatin biology, Prof. Dr. Robert Schneider will investigate novel modifications of the nucleosome core. The funding volume for Helmholtz Zentrum München is around 422,000 Euros.

Aberrant Immune Signals in Cancer (SFB 1335/1)

In the framework of this project, scientists will investigate how aberrant immune signals contribute to cancer and how interference with oncogenic processes can be translated to better therapies. Prof. Dr. Daniel Krappmann from Helmholtz Zentrum München will particularly focus on tumors of lymphoid tissue and elucidate the cross-talk of oncogenic immune signaling networks with post-transcriptional gene regulation in lymphomas. Therefore, he aims to combine gene editing by CRISPR/Cas with pharmacological inhibitors to better predict the outcome of treatments and to develop new precision therapies for highly malignant lymphomas.

Moreover, Prof. Dr. Stephan Herzig is part of the extended project "Atherosclerosis: Mechanisms and Networks of Novel Therapeutic Targets" (SFB 1123). As the name suggests, the researchers are working towards vascular prevention and therapy based on a more refined mechanistic pervasion of atherosclerosis. Hence, it is the mission of the Collaborative Research Centre to identify worthwhile targets for treating atherosclerosis.

Further Information

* TRR stands for transregional research projects at multiple sites.

Follow the link to read the press release “DFG to Fund 14 New Collaborative Research Centres”.

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 2,300 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 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.