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Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
No 7/2020 | September Issue

Dear Readers,

At the end of September the two-year term of office of Professor Axel R. Pries as Chairman of the Executive Board (interim) ends. He had two exciting years, for sure, as he continued at the same time to pursue his duty as Dean of the Charité. And a lot has happened at the BIH during this time: He appointed professors, paved the way for the integration of the BIH into the Charité, completely repositioned the mission of the BIH, celebrated the laying of the foundation stone at the Käthe-Beutler-Haus and the topping-out ceremony at the ATIZ and represented the BIH in the media and in the public. The BIH thanks Professor Pries for his engaged guidance during the last two years and is looking forward to further co-operation with him as Dean of the Charité.

The September issue of our newsletter has lots of interesting news for you. Enjoy!

Your BIH Newsletter Team

News From the BIH

Claudia Langenberg erhält Berufungsurkunde von Axel R. Pries

Tracking Down The Genetic Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

With the appointment of BIH professor Claudia Langenberg to the BIH professorship for Computational Medicine, the BIH and the Charité are strengthening and expanding their leading role in the field of data-based medicine. The expert in genetic epidemiology and specialist in public health studies the fundamentals of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes using large amounts of data from international patient and population cohorts. The BIH recruited the German-British researcher at the beginning of September from the University of Cambridge, where she headed molecular epidemiology at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit.

Read more (in German only)
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Nia Helth App

Atopic Dermatitis App Now Covered by Health Insurer

Atopic dermatitis is an insidious disease that occurs primarily in children and young people and not only affects the skin, but can also become a major psychological burden. An app created by the Berlin-based medical device manufacturer Nia Health helps patients and parents better manage the disease and collects personalized data to develop targeted therapies. The young company spun off from Charité thanks to an EXIST Business Start-up Grant from the BMWi, and it received support during the founding phase from BIH Innovations, the joint technology transfer unit of the BIH and Charité. Since July 1, 2020, Nia Health has been cooperating with statutory health insurer DAK-Gesundheit. Further cooperations are expected to follow.

Read the press release
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
IL4I1 metabolic enzyme

A Potential New Target for Immunotherapies in Cancer

The metabolic enzyme IL4I1 (interleukin-4-induced-1) promotes the spread of tumor cells and suppresses the immune system. This was discovered by scientists around Dr. Saskia Trump,  who heads the Epigenetics research group of the Molecular Epidemiology Unit at the BIH, together with colleagues from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The enzyme is produced to a greater extent in tumors and activates the dioxin receptor. Compounds that inhibit IL4I1 could open up new opportunities for cancer therapy in the future. The results of this study have now been published in the journal Cell. 

Read the press release
Read the publication

Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

New Software Detects Disease-Causing Gene Mutations

A serious illness is often the result of a single genetic defect. But given that two healthy people already have around three million differences in their genetic make-up, it is no easy task to pick out the one disease-causing deviation from the many harmless gene variants. Scientists at the Bioinformatics Core Unit of the BIH joined forces with colleagues from Charité and the MDC to develop a software that helps locate this genetic “needle in a haystack” – which is particularly important in the diagnosis of rare diseases. The resulting software “VarFish” is freely available and is explained in the latest issue of the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

Read the press release
Read the publication
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

Improving Healthcare Through Cell-Based Interceptive Medicine

Hundreds of innovators, research pioneers, clinicians, industry leaders and policy makers from all around Europe are united by a vision of how to revolutionize healthcare. The LifeTime Initiative, including the BIH, has developed a strategy to advance personalized treatment for five major disease classes. In two publications the initiators now present a detailed roadmap of how to leverage the latest scientific breakthroughs and technologies over the next decade, to track, understand and treat human cells throughout an individual's lifetime. Nikolaus Rajewsky, scientific director of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) at the MDC and speaker of BIH research focus "Single Cell technologies for personalized medicine" is coordinator of the LifeTime Initiative.

Read the press release
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Porträts Schwarz, Schülke, Seelow

Corrigendum: Most Cited Publication

In the report on the publication "MutationTaster2" we unfortunately only mentioned the last author Dominik Seelow, BIH Professor for Bioinformatics and Translational Genetics, in our last newsletter. But other authors were involved in this work, too, which has by far the highest Relative Citation Ratio (RCR) of all Charité publications in the last ten years and thus an enormous scientific impact. The first author, Dr. Jana Marie Schwarz, developed the software "Mutation Taster" together with Dominik Seelow during her master and PhD thesis from 2008 to 2013. At that time, both were working in the group of Professor Markus Schülke in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology at Charité, whose clinical expertise had a significant influence on the user-friendliness and thus the success of the software. Fourth in the group was David Cooper from the University of Cardiff in the UK. In their 2014 publication in Nature Methods, the scientists present their self-developed software "MutationTaster2" – a further development of the "MutationTaster" program, which can be used to assess whether changes in the DNA sequence of a gene could cause a disease. We apologize for the omission.

Read the publication
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Claudia Langenberg erhält Berufungsurkunde von Axel R. Pries

Databases for Active Research of Female Scientists

In order to increase the representation of women scientists at all levels, in addition to various visibility activities, networks and accesses are needed to find women scientists from different disciplines and learn more about them. You can now find a curated overview of databases and lists with and for women scientists from the life sciences and related fields on the BIH website. It offers easy access for committees, organizers and panels to find women scientists from different disciplines as speaker, job candidate or committee member.

Read more
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

2000th Study Participant Recruited Into the BeLOVE Cohort

In the BIH sponsored Berlin Longterm Obeservation of Vascular Events (BeLOVE) cohort study, the 2000th study participant was enrolled at the end of July. After the pandemic-related restrictions, the extensive deep phenotyping visits at the BIH Clinical Research Unit (CRU) could be resumed under high hygienic standards. 

Read more about BeLOVE

News From the BIH Academy

Peter Kühnen

Former Clinician Scientist Becomes Heisenberg Professor

The alumnus of the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program, PD Dr. med. Peter Kühnen from the Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology, has been appointed DFG Heisenberg Professor as of 1 September 2020. The focus is on the promotion of translational research on rare, in particular metabolic and endocrine, diseases. Peter Kühnen is interested in the investigation of new therapeutic strategies, an optimized examination of affected patients and an improved functional characterization of identified genetic and epigenetic variants. Congratulations!
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Anton Henssen

ERC Starting Grant for Clinician Scientist Anton Henssen

How does cancer develop and progress? A team led by pediatric oncologist Dr. Anton G. Henssen has set out to further improve our understanding of these processes. The researcher at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint institution of Charité and the MDC, is also a participant in the BIH Academy’s Clinician Scientist Program. The aim of his project "CancerCirculome" is to learn more about circular DNA – ring-shaped sections of DNA that are found inside our cells but outside the chromosomes and appear to play a particular role in cancer. The European Research Council (ERC) has now awarded Anton Henssen a grant worth €1.48 million to set up his research group. Congratulations!

Read the press release

News From the BIH QUEST Center

Logo BIH QUEST Center

New Seminar Series in Handling Research Data

The BIH QUEST Center organizes a new monthly seminar series starting in September which offers a "peer-to-peer learning" platform to find out about the practice of colleagues and share one's own experiences with handling research data. The first three sessions will deal with the protection of complex personal data, sharing of analysis codes and electronic lab books. The seminar series will be held online in English, is also open to external participants and is planned to be continued in 2021 if well received. 

Read more

News From BIH Innovations

Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

Aignostics Raises €5m Seed Round Funding

Aignostics, a spin-off from the BIH and Charité, pioneering computational pathology for pharmaceutical research and diagnostics, has announced today the closing of €5m in seed round funding. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) led the round, with participation from the High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), VC Fonds Technologie der IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, and Future Capital.

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Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Logo SPARK-BIH and Stiftung Charité

Selection Process for the I4H Program 2020 Has Started

The Inventors for Health (I4H) program targets entrepreneurial individuals who have innovative ideas for inventions in life sciences and medicine and pursue these ideas individually or in small teams. Inventors can basically be clinically active people of all career levels holding a university degree and working at the BIH, Charité or the MDC. This year, many future inventors followed the call to join the I4H program. On 16 September five teams that have already been in a bootcamp are invited to pitch their innovative ideas in front of a jury. Stiftung Charité supports the I4H program financially with funds from the Private Excellence Initiative Johanna Quandt

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Porträt Simon Gräber

FACES Portrait with Clinician Scientist Simon Gräber

As a BIH Charité Clinician Scientist, Dr. Simon Gräber is able to divide his time between patient care at the clinic and research in the lab. He is specialized in cystic fibrosis, also called “mucoviscidosis”, a rare hereditary metabolic disease which often already appears in childhood. As part of its FACES portraits, Stiftung Charité recently spoke with the future consultant in pediatric and adolescent medicine about his research, his patients and, not least, about what motivates him at a personal level.

Read the FACES portrait with Simon Gräber

BIH Paper of the Month

Due to Corona the awarding of the Paper of the Months 2020 was delayed, and we are pleased that we were finally able to hand over the Paper of the Month of January and February.
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Daniel Bauer

A Targeted Therapy Against Renal Carcinoma via WNT and NOTCH?

Dr. Annika Fendler and Daniel Bauer received the Paper of the Month February 2020. We spoke with Daniel Bauer, PhD student in the Walter Birchmeier lab of the MDC about the excellent publication. 

Read the interview
Read the publication
Nadine Haase und Kristin Kräker

Statins May Help Against Preeclampsia

In January, Nadine Haase (left in the photograph) and Kristin Kräker received the Paper of the Month. In an animal model, they examined the effects of statins on the pregnancy disease preeclampsia.

Read the interview (only in German)
Read the publication


Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

Due to the current situation regarding Sars-CoV-2/COVID-19 almost all BIH events will be implemented by using online tools, as noted in the event calender

If you would like to receive a regular overview of upcoming BIH Events, please register here. Many thanks.

Event Review

Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

BIH Academy Participates in the Virtual GAIN 2020

Since 2016, the BIH Academy (BIA) actively participates in the Annual GAIN Conference (German Academic International Network). This year's GAIN conference took place virtually from 28 – 29 August 2020. Dr. Nathalie Huber, Head of the Clinician Scientist Office at the BIH, presented the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program as a structured career path for researching physicians during the medical workshop. Together with Dr. Iwan Meij she also represented the BIH with a booth at the Talent Fair and held promising discussions with potential top-class applicants for BIA funding programs in (video) chats. In the last years, several returnees have already been accepted into the BIH Charité (Junior) Clinician Scientist Program through counseling sessions at GAIN.
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Logos SPARK-BIH und SPARK global

Annual Training Course in Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship

SPARK members and SPARK associates from all across Europe attended the 8th Annual Training Course in Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BIE) from 3 to 14 August, 2020. SPARK Finland organized together with European SPARKees and University Technology Sydney in Australia this year's intensive 2 week-training course. A variety of topics were covered, including design thinking, product development, commercialization and financial-related aspects of founding a company.

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Open Calls

Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Logo BIH Academy

Apply now for BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Programs

The BIH Academy (BIA) and the Medical Faculty of the Charité have published their second call for proposals for the renowned BIH Charité (Junior) Clinician Scientist Program this year. The program is a recognized, modern career path in academic medicine, which offers research-based clinicians a structured specialist training with defined space for clinical and basic research. In addition, the (Junior) Digital Clinician Scientist Program was announced for the third time. The deadline for both programs is 23 September 2020.  

Read the calls
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter

SPOKES Wellcome Trust Funded Think Tank (SWTFTT)

The SPOKES Team is seeking early-career researchers (ECRs) for the SPOKES Wellcome Trust Funded Think Tank. A group of 10 ECRs will create a project to improve the quality of research in Berlin with a budget of 20,000 euros. Applications are open until 21 September 2020. To learn more about this unique opportunity, please read here or contact

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Berlin Institute of Health Newsletter
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