A new chapter for the Berlin Institute of Health

The BIH is to become – alongside patient care and the medical faculty – the third pillar of Charité. For the first time, the federal government is directly contributing to the long-term core funding of a university hospital ‒ thus breaking new ground in terms of scientific policy. The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) will now be a privileged partner of the BIH.

Professor Axel Radlach Pries, interim Chairman of the BIH Executive Board and also Dean of Charité, is pleased that the federal states have approved the integration of the BIH into Charité. “I firmly believe, like Governing Mayor Michael Müller, that this is a good day for patients in Berlin and across Germany,” said Pries. “For this will allow us to fulfill even better our mission of transferring research findings from the laboratory into clinical practice – what is known as translation.” He stressed that the BIH has already had some notable successes: “With 26 appointed professors and 20 visiting scientists, who altogether have published over 1,000 scientific papers, the BIH has a glowing track record in the short time since its establishment,” he proudly added. “Our BIH Chairs are responsible for running highly innovative centers that are advancing the digitalization of medicine, increasing the effectiveness of clinical trials, and raising the quality of biomedical research. The BIH Biomedical Innovation Academy has already trained more than 100 clinical research physicians, and the BIH Digital Health Accelerator has helped bring the digital ideas of six teams to market. In addition, the BIH has set up scientific infrastructure such as 12 core facilities that support translational research, the primary mission of the Institute.

Professor Karl Max Einhäupl, Chairman of the Executive Board of Charité, expressed his thanks to everyone who made this step possible: “The broad approval from the federal government and the 16 states is an outstanding affirmation of the BIH’s efforts to establish itself as a new model of translational medicine, one dedicated to quickly bringing basic research discoveries to the bedside. The BIH’s integration into Charité – while at the same time maintaining a high degree of autonomy – for the first time takes advantage of the possibilities afforded to the federal government by the 2014 amendment to the German Basic Law.”

The administrative agreement makes the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) into a privileged partner of the BIH. Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the MDC, said: “We will be able to expedite scientific progress that benefits patients through the already excellent and fruitful collaboration of our researchers with Charité’s clinicians. The MDC is a driver of innovation and has state-of-the-art technologies and facilities, some of which have been jointly developed – and are extensively used – by the MDC, Charité, and the BIH. This cooperation must continue, and we are very excited about it.”

In a tour of the Clinical Research Unit, which took place during the signing event, its head, Dr. Sein Schmidt, made clear that the integration of the BIH into Charité can already be seen ‒ both spatially and substantively: “Here, BIH scientists, MDC researchers, and Charité physicians are working together under one roof, for example, on the BeLOVE study, in which we are examining 10,000 patients from Berlin who have suffered a vascular event and then following them for ten years. Such vascular events include stroke, heart attack, acute heart failure, renal failure, and type 2 diabetes.” In collaboration with colleagues from the MDC, the researchers are seeking to not only better understand the interactions and systemic medical factors that are responsible for the onset of these diseases but also to identify factors that can be used to detect and predict these diseases at an early stage.

After the tour, Professor Petra Reinke, who sits on the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies’ steering committee, presented the case of a 40-year-old patient who had received a kidney transplant four years ago. “The subsequent lifelong monitoring of the immune response is at least as complicated as the surgical procedure,” explained the transplantation physician. “If the immune reaction to the transplant is too strong, the new organ will be rejected and destroyed. If the body’s defense mechanisms are too strongly inhibited by immunosuppressive drugs, patients may develop severe complications such as infectious, metabolic, or tumor diseases. Reinke and her colleagues solved the problem by isolating and multiplying some of the patient’s own immune cells ‒ so-called regulatory T cells – and then infusing them back into the patient. “Following the one-time infusion of her cells, Ms. S. has for the past four years taken only one medication and has experienced virtually no side effects. To her and our great delight, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl two years ago.” The BIH has made regenerative medicine a key priority in its strategy and will co-fund the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies with Charité, each contributing 50 percent of the budget.

The integration of the BIH into Charité is expected to be completed by January 1, 2021.

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