Seen from the outside, the new stair-shaped, four-story building looks more like a hotel than a clinical facility: patios and courtyards, terraces and a nice garden, in addition to natural daylight and a diversity of pastimes such as cinema and gym in the interior. Yet the CRC Hannover is no hotel. It provides an important interface between basic research and marketing authorization of new drugs and medical devices – “translational research” is the technical term for this. The focus is on novel concepts for early-phase clinical trials of phases I and IIa. In these phases, new drugs and medical devices are used for the first time in healthy volunteers and patients, to test them for efficacy and possible side effects in man. The results of these trials are decisive in whether or not a new drug or medical device receives approval from the authorities. The CRC Hannover excels particularly in its size, the quality of its services and equipment, and the pooling of scientific, medical and epidemiological know-how.
Advantage of the location for Lower Saxony and Germany
Stephan Weil, Premier of Lower Saxony’s state government, Stefan Schostok, Mayor of Hannover, and Professor Alfred Gossner, Executive Vice President Finance, Controlling and Information Systems of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, held the welcoming speeches during the opening celebration on September 8. Weil said in his speech that the CRC Hannover was the only medical research center of its kind in Germany and that through this cooperation the three research institutions had created an excellent infrastructure in Hannover and Braunschweig.
Hannover’s Mayor Schostok emphasized the important role of the state capital as a center of science and research: “There is even more than one university in Hannover working successfully in the field of translational research. With the Clinical Research Center, an important cornerstone has now been added to distinguish Hannover as an international center of science and research.”
“As Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization, Fraunhofer is also an institution to perform medical translational research. Within the joint project CRC Hannover, the Fraunhofer ITEM has teamed up with strong partners and is further expanding this field of research. The German pharmaceutical and medical sectors in particular will benefit from this new center. But also international clients from industry and public authorities will be able to make use of the novel outstanding possibilities in early-phase clinical research,” said Professor Gossner.
Research in the early phases of drug development
The CRC Hannover has a floor space of 6000 square meters, located next to the Fraunhofer ITEM buildings and in direct vicinity to the MHH. It includes an outpatient section for screening visits and studies that do not require study participants to stay overnight, and a total of 50 beds for accommodation and monitoring of patients and healthy volunteers. First studies have already been initiated: In July, the Fraunhofer ITEM began to test a new nasal spray for treating allergic seasonal rhinitis. The institute’s Environmental Challenge Chamber is also used for these tests. In particular in the context of respiratory diseases such as seasonal rhinitis, asthma, and COPD, the ITEM scientists are at the forefront.
Research activities of the MHH
The MHH has begun a study in the CRC Hannover that was initiated by its Institute for Clinical Pharmacology, aiming to investigate the effects of a novel diabetes drug on cardiac function. Further clinical trials in close cooperation with the MHH Clinic for Ophthalmology and also studies in the early development phases I and II in cooperation with the MHH Clinics for Neurology and for Immunology and Rheumatology are about to be started.
“This cooperation of excellent research institutions and a leading medical university allows us to perform a large diversity of clinical studies and to offer a broad spectrum of diagnostic and imaging techniques,” said Professor Norbert Krug, Coordinator of the CRC Hannover and Fraunhofer ITEM Medical Director.
Hosting Germany’s most modern biobank and an imaging center
On 400 square meters of floor space, the MHH is setting up one of the most modern biobanks in Germany in the CRC Hannover. Biomaterials from patients and healthy volunteers will be stored there under high quality and safety standards. In another part of the CRC Hannover, a 500-square-meter imaging center is being set up under the direction of the MHH radiology departments. A first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner was already installed in April, further equipment will follow. “The CRC provides a perfect basis for top-quality, science-based and safe performance of clinical studies. In the first place, the CRC enables testing of drugs and medical devices in the early stages of the development process. It thus sets the stage for urgently needed innovations in the field of medicine, under optimal structural conditions. At the same time, it symbolizes the strength of the MHH’s cooperation with two important non-university research institutions, Fraunhofer ITEM and HZI,” said Professor Christopher Baum, MHH President.
Long-term study to elucidate wide-spread conditions
In May, the HZI started examining the first study participants of the “National Cohort” study in the CRC Hannover. Germany’s most comprehensive epidemiological study is intended to provide data facilitating early detection, prevention, and treatment of wide-spread conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and infections. In addition, HZI scientists will perform studies in the CRC Hannover to investigate infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system. “The CRC is a good example of the close dovetailing of the different research institutions based in this region: HZI, MHH, and Fraunhofer ITEM will do research for human health together here in the future,” said Professor Dirk Heinz, HZI Scientific Director.