Each German Health Research Centre consists of several partner locations. A partner location can consist of a university or a non-university body, or of a regional partnership of two or more such bodies. The German Federal Government provides 90% of the financing for these Centres. The federal funds are provided in the form of institutional funding. The federal states finance their locally based institutions that are involved in a Centre with a pro-rata contribution of 10%.
In the selection of partner locations and the funding of German Health Research Centres, emphasis is placed on the development and testing of pioneering model projects that will rectify the structural deficits in the German health research system. The Centres have a particular responsibility to use the research funds available in a targeted and effective manner for the benefit of the patients. As a result, the transfer of scientific results into therapy practice will be an essential component and also an evaluation criterion for the German Health Research Centres.
German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Understanding the functioning, development and diseases of the human brain is one of the greatest challenges in the biosciences. Progress in the invention and improvement of examination methods and devices has made it possible to study the healthy human brain and thus to obtain far-reaching knowledge concerning our thoughts, feelings and behaviour as well as the corresponding disorders. Neurodegenerative diseases, which include Parkinson’s disease and forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, are an extremely high burden on those affected and their relatives.
This Centre, which was established in 2009, combines scientific expertise in the field of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases on a national basis. In addition to the core Centre in Bonn, there are six high-performance partner locations in Rostock/Greifswald, Magdeburg, Göttingen, Witten-Herdecke, Tübingen and Munich. Each location concentrates on its particular strengths while not losing perspective of the common objective of improving therapy and prevention for neurodegenerative diseases. However, the Centre does not confine itself to basic research; the translation of findings into therapeutic practice is also part of the Centre's guiding mandate.
German Centre for Diabetes Research
Modern lifestyles and nutritional habits, with a high-energy diet accompanied by a lack of exercise, are leading to obesity and adiposity to an increasing extent even among children and young people. These are frequently identified as the primary causes for the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and various types of tumours. It has been forecast that there will be approximately 10 million diabetes patients in Germany in 2025. Given the constant increase in the number of people suffering from this condition, there is an urgent need for a significantly more comprehensive research strategy with new methods of individualised diagnosis, prevention and therapy.
The German Centre for Diabetes Research was established in 2009. It has five partners: the Helmholtz Centre Munich for Health and Environment, the German Diabetes Centre in Düsseldorf, the German Institute for Nutrition Research Potsdam, the University of Tübingen, and Dresden University Hospital. This cooperation closes gaps in the research chain and strengthens translational research in Germany in this field.
The various cardiovascular diseases are frequently caused by common risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and smoking. These diseases significantly shorten life and impair the quality of life of those affected to a considerable extent over a long period. Numerous therapeutic approaches are available to combat cardiovascular diseases. However, these frequently only result in insufficient improvement in organ functioning and the overall situation of the patients. This makes the development and funding of concepts aimed at early and individualised prevention and therapy all the more important.
German scientists conduct world-class research in those areas that are of decisive importance for cardiovascular research and have made significant contributions to medical progress. The establishment of this Centre will result in long-term networking of cardiovascular research in Germany – from basic research and clinical research right through to health care research. University and non-university institutions will cooperate nationally on a partnership basis, coordinate their work, and make joint use of research infrastructures such as registers.
German Centre for Infection Research
Every day, thousands of people worldwide die from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and from other, equally life-threatening tropical infectious diseases. There is still a lack of safe and affordable vaccines, diagnosis methods and therapies to deal with these diseases. Germany is able and willing to make an important contribution to successfully combating these conditions.
However, the impact of infectious diseases is of enormous medical and economic significance in Germany, too. This also applies to the so-called zoonoses, i.e. diseases that can be transmitted to humans by animals or through animal-based food products. The rapidly increasing world population, demographic change within the population, climate change, changing eating habits, and the globalisation of travel and commerce are combining to create increasingly favourable conditions for the occurrence of zoonoses and the spread of the corresponding pathogens. Research in this area requires close cooperation between human and veterinary medicine. However, there is another development that is increasing the risks associated with infectious diseases: More and more proven anti-infective substances such as antibiotics, antimycotics and virostatics are losing their effectiveness because germs are becoming resistant. In addition, new pathogens and known pathogens with changed properties regularly occur which trigger diseases with high morbidity and mortality rates and present great challenges in terms of detection, prevention and treatment.
The German Centre for Infection Research combines scientific expertise, infrastructures and resources on a nationwide basis, and creates closer links between existing university and non-university research groups. The aim of future research is to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of infectious diseases, of their progression and spreading patterns, and of the development of resistance that is associated with the treatment of diseases.
German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research
Over the past 30 years, fundamental biomedical research has delivered pioneering findings concerning the molecular and cellular causes of cancer and has developed new therapy strategies based on these findings. For patients with certain forms of cancer such as leukaemia or certain malignant tumours during childhood, the chances of a permanent cure have improved significantly over the past ten to fifteen years. The five-year survival rate for common tumours such as breast and colon cancer has risen to over 75% and 55%, respectively.
For various cancer therapies, individualised medicine is no longer just a vision but has already become reality. There are a range of pharmaceutical products here for which molecular-biological diagnostic tests are carried out prior to the start of the therapy in order to deliver prognoses concerning effectiveness, side effects and the appropriate dosage of the active substances for the individual patient. However, the overall development of new therapies and diagnostics has not kept pace with the enormous growth in findings delivered by basic research. In order to further develop new therapy concepts and improve the probabilities of cure and survival for patients, findings from research laboratories must be translated into clinical studies and from there into medical care. This is one of the core tasks of the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research.
Sufficiently effective therapy methods do not exist for asthma, other chronic lung diseases, bronchial carcinomas, lung emphysemas and respiratory allergies. This represents a major challenge for health research, which can only be met through scientific and structural coordination of the leading lung research groups in Germany.
To achieve this aim, the German Centre for Lung Research is bringing together the best university and non-university pneumological research institutions. Basic and patient-oriented research in the field of lung diseases is being coordinated and improved to world-class level with the aim of ensuring that fundamental scientific findings are translated into new clinical concepts for improving patient care.