Success for neuroscience research in Berlin
NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence receives renewed funding
The continuation of the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, an association of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and its universities, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Freie Universität Berlin as well as three non-university research institutes, will sustainably advance the substantial expansion of neuroscience research that Berlin has seen in recent years. Since 2007, university scientists have been collaborating with researchers from the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC), the Deutsche Rheuma-Forschungszentrum (DRFZ) and the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in an interdisciplinary effort across institutional borders to investigate the functions of the nervous system. “Over the past few years, extensive international appointments have enabled us to successfully expand our Berlin-based neuroscience research. Now we can move forward on this path, using the additional funding to further strengthen the cooperation projects we have established”, says a delighted Dietmar Schmitz, spokesman and initiator of the Cluster of Excellence.
Initially, NeuroCure’s research focus was on neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Additionally, the scientists are now also investigating psychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, depression and schizophrenia. Their stated goal is to better understand disease mechanisms with the aim to discover effective treatments. In order to make this possible, NeuroCure’s basic researchers and clinicians are working closely together to promote the translation of laboratory research findings into new treatments and diagnostic options while transferring clinical insights back into basic research.
The key interface for this is the NeuroCure Clinical Research Centre (NCRC), where a large number of clinical studies on neurological and psychiatric disorders are conducted. Being a fully equipped research clinic, the NCRC offers logistical, administrative and scientific support for scientists to conduct their own studies, referred to as investigator-initiated trials. There are currently more than 40 studies being carried out at the NCRC, also in collaboration with pharmaceutical, biotechnical and medical companies. These studies are to be significantly expanded during the next funding period.
Additional facilities and platforms offer researchers at NeuroCure an ideal environment for cutting-edge research. This includes the Berlin Centre for Advanced Imaging (BCAN), equipped with state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging technology, where scientists are working to advance modern imaging techniques for improved diagnosis of neurological diseases.
Following the successful launch period, the NeuroCure scientists are certainly not planning to rest on their laurels during the next funding period. Further projects are to be implemented, such as ten new appointments at their partner institutes. But also the expansion of research platforms and strengthened collaboration between the Berlin neuroscientists are a key focus within the Cluster of Excellence’s second funding period.
NeuroCure places special emphasis on providing equal opportunities and support for young scientists. During its first four and a half years, the percentage of female professors within the Cluster of Excellence doubled to 25 percent. Specific programmes such as postdoctoral fellowships for female scientists and flexible child care are designed to give young scientists more freedom in research.
Young neuroscientists are also welcome to receive special support from NeuroCure. Fellowships for the international master’s and graduate programme Medical Neurosciences, training programmes for postdocs and other measures complement the Cluster of Excellence’s range of services and will be significantly expanded during the second funding period.
In a few weeks’ time, the NeuroCure scientists will move into a new state-of-the-art research facility at the Campus Charité Mitte. Being united under one roof will enable the members of the Cluster of Excellence to interact more closely and strengthen collaboration across institutional borders and disciplines.
This makes Dietmar Schmitz confident about the future: “We hope that these excellent conditions will allow us to further advance neuroscience research in Berlin to gain new insights into the nervous system and translate these into new treatments for patient care.”