The HZI turns 50
The Big "50" - The countdown has started
From GBF-Intern to InFact
Going through Graduate School - Then and now
4 questions to…
3 people - 3 views of the HZI and the anniversary
The history of the HZI in numbers
Everything was better in the past
A voyage through the history of infection research and the HZI
The "50" in the flashlight
The HZI turns 50
Researching together, celebrating together
2015 is a special year for the HZI: We are turning 50! Based on its roots in molecular biology and biotechnology, today's HZI has become a powerful centre for modern infection research. This is definitely a reason to celebrate together, but also a good time to take a look back. In the anniversary issue of the InFact, we are taking a closer look at the past 50 years and have spoken with some colleagues about the past and presence.
an important anniversary is just around the corner: In the fall of 1965, the predecessor institution of our Centre was founded, the "Institute for Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics" (IMB), which was renamed GBF and then HZI later on. On 26 September, we will celebrate our 50th anniversary in style and on 6 October, we will be joined by many guests and contemporaries to take a look back at the history of our Centre. The Chronicles presented on the occasion of the official ceremony are certain to include some interesting facts and anecdotes of which even "old-timers" amongst our colleagues were unaware.
In addition to recalling the past half century and its changing history, we will also take a look at the future. For this reason, we drafted a roadmap entitled "HZI 2025", which is in the final stages of preparation. This paper sketches out our ideas, plans and opportunities for the upcoming ten years and presents them for discussion - inside as well as outside the Centre.
We look forward to the celebrations and the discussions with you and the certainly exciting further development of our Centre.
Franziska Broer and Dirk Heinz
The Big "50" - The countdown has started
Only a few days are left until the staff party and the official ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the HZI. The preparatory work is in full swing. Web pages are being updated, lectures are being presented and the "50" made of wood travels through the Centre and Braunschweig.
There are 365 days in a year. Subtracting the weekends, holidays and vacation days, there are still about 222 days on which we work on the HZI campus either as researchers in the laboratory, a staff member of technical services or in administration. Every single one of us has his or her own sphere of activities, rhythm and ambience, which means everyone, has a personal history with and at the HZI. We go through our professional lives accompanied by our colleagues - usually only those from the same department or those with overlapping activities. This year, let's get together for an additional holiday: 24 September. This is the date of the staff party celebrating the 50th anniversary.
The staff party is a fantastic opportunity to look back in time, recall anecdotes, celebrate successes and make plans for the future. But, most of all, it is an opportunity to join in the celebration and get to know new people.
The preparations for a great campus party are in full swing. Let's get together and make this a highlight and celebrate a festival which we will love to look back on in the future.
You are also cordially invited to watch the broadcast of the official ceremony on 6 October in the W building! You can look forward to lively panel discussions, introduced by exciting video clips, and a small catering.
From GBF-Intern to InFact
When the GBF was renamed into HZI in 2006, a new staff newspaper also took to the starting blocks. The InFact, with a total of 42 issues until now, became the successor of the GBF-News. But the GBF-News also had a historical predecessor: the GBF-Intern.
The first issue of the "GBF-Intern" was published early in 1978 in a difficult ambience, because many colleagues dismissed the idea of an internal newspaper. The production was cumbersome as well. The first issue shown here was typed on a typewriter and then printed at the in-house print shop of the GBF. Photos were scarce at the time as evidenced by just four small pictures being included in the 16-page black-and-white printing.
But the acceptance level improved rapidly. Much like today, the newspaper delivered the latest information from the Centre concerning continued training measures, construction progress and many other issues to the staff members of its time. Who would want to do without that?
Going through Graduate School - Then and now
Is it true that everything was better in the past? "No," Wulf Blankenfeldt, head of the Structure and Function of Proteins department for the past two years, says emphatically. He did his PhD from 1995 to 1999 at the former GBF. Joining Tobias Bock, one of his currently six PhD students, the 47-year-old researcher discusses the framework conditions for PhD students and research at the Centre.
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE CONDITIONS AT THE HZI?
Tobias Bock: In terms of equipment and expertise on campus, the HZI is second to none. We did not have that at the University of Bayreuth. But still, a lot could be utilised even better either within the own department or in terms of on campus cooperation. But the work conditions are really very good.
Wulf Blankenfeldt: At the moment there is nothing that I cannot do for lack of equipment. From the very beginning, the equipment situation was very, very good and also the people who know how to use it. This was a big help to us as we didn't have to start from zero when we came here from Bayreuth.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THAT TO THE GBF?
WB: The platforms we have now were not available at the time. Many technologies were not accessible to everybody. There are a lot more opportunities now if you know what is present and what your colleagues do. One way to find out is the Friday Lunch Seminar which is a good way to form alliances. By now, we are collaborating with many groups at the HZI and at the HIPS. Working collaboratively, we can do things which would not be possible in our department alone.
What I really missed at the GBF was a concept for hosting external speakers. That was extremely poor at the time. Exaggerating a little, we had guest speakers maybe once or twice a year.
AND HOW ARE THE CONDITIONS FOR A DOCTORAL THESIS AT THE HZI?
TB: Adding everything up, I think the Grad School is a good thing. It is certainly not bad to have gone through a programme like this even if you have to spend a lot of time on lectures and on giving presentations. This is time that you cannot spend on your own PhD.
WB: In my opinion, the Grad School makes a lot of sense. There is a question though whether or not the curriculum, as offered, fits the PhD students perfectly. But I look at that from a special point of view, since I did my PhD here. We didn't have that at all. The organisation of the PhD student training and the actual supervision depended very strongly on the research group you had joined. I'm certainly not a typical example of how a PhD thesis was done at the time. In my case, nobody really checked whether or not I made any progress and I had to find a new doctoral supervisor at the end of my PhD. This is certainly not conceivable anymore today.
DOES THIS IMPACT YOUR OWN BEHAVIOUR AS A SUPERVISOR?
WB: Extremely. I did not like the time when I did my PhD at all. Scientifically, it did not go well in the beginning and I guess I was missing some "spirit" in the Institute. At the end of my PhD, I basically felt like I was finished with academic research. But today, it is my impression that the Institute has improved a lot. This is also because of the common topic, which was not the case in the past.
IS WULF A STERN SUPERVISOR?
TB: No. He is rather one of the easy-going bosses. There's always a good atmosphere when you talk to him. You can basically go to him whenever he has the time. I'm sure you can do much worse with your boss.
WB: It is very important to me to have a personal discussion with my staff once a month. This personal exchange is extremely important. It allows me to follow up on the project and sometimes to give a hint if things don't work. Whether or not these hints always work, is another matter.
4 questions to…
Victor Wray, has been working at the HZI since September 1973 which makes him the most senior colleague at the Centre. He used to work as a scientist in the field of structural biochemistry and is now supporting the HZI Graduate School.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RESEARCH CENTRE YOU STARTED AT AND THE HZI TODAY?
The biggest difference is certainly the size of the Centre. When I started here we were about one hundred people in just three buildings - A, B and C. Also, the library was much bigger than it is today compared to the number of employees. If you wanted to read a paper you couldn’t just print it from your computer. You had to go and read it in the library.
FOR YOU PERSONALLY WHAT WAS THE MOST INTRIGUING DEVELOPMENT AT THE CENTRE?
Computers changed everything. In the seventies computers were very rare. We wrote publications on typewriters. It took weeks to prepare the physical paper. After every discussion with co-authors the whole manuscript had to be re-typed.
But at the same time you could almost be certain that a journal accepted your manuscript once you submitted it.
HOW HAS THE WAY PEOPLE ARE ENGAGED IN SCIENCE CHANGED OVER TIME?
30-40 years ago it was a lot easier to follow all the developments in science both in your own and in related fields. Today a lot more people are engaged in science which results in more papers being published. It has become more difficult to keep up-to-date and to find the time to read related literature. Another consequence is a much higher competition.
AS THE MOST SENIOR MEMBER OF THE HZI, WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR YOUNG SCIENTISTS?
As a young scientist you should make the most of the potential of our institute - the technology, the knowledge and the different cultural backgrounds. Collaborate with each other! But even more important: Before starting your PhD it helps if you already know what you want to do afterwards. Check back whether your work satisfies you or not and whether you’re enthusiastic about it. If it doesn’t, change it. And be positively aggressive on the job market. Go there; speak to people and convince everybody that you are the best for the job.
3 people - 3 views of the HZI and the anniversary
by Rebecca Winkels
Sihem El Azizi (SE), IT systems trainee at the System Integration unit at the HZI since 2013. Richard Lomberg (RL), joined the Centre in 1997 and has been in charge of the Internal Audit, Corruption Prevention and Risk Management departments since 2001. Sripriya Murthy (SM), doctoral student in the Viral Immunomodulation junior research group since 2012. Three people, three different professions and three views of the HZI.
RICHARD, SIHEM, WHEN YOU WERE LOOKING FOR AN EMPLOYER, WERE YOU SPECIFICALLY LOOKING IN THE FIELD OF SCIENCE?
SE: Basically, in the IT industry you can find a job anywhere. It was mostly coincidence that I ended up in a research institution, but it's great. Especially because I think that medical research is very important and exciting, I enjoy supporting the scientists in their work.
RL: In my case, the job description in a newspaper ad was just a perfect fit, but working here has some distinct advantages over my previous employers. Unlike for example a carmaker, we are not in a direct and fast-acting dependence on demand. This means that we are not so strongly affected by fluctuations of the market. This makes many processes less hectic here. Still, the work here is diverse and interesting.
SRIPRIYA, FOR YOU, AS A SCIENTIST, THE JOB MARKET IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT. DID THE SCIENTIFIC REPUTATION OF THE CENTRE PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR DECISION IN FAVOUR OF THE HZI?
SM: Yes, it did. Before I decided in favour of the HZI, I did some background research on the position of Helmholtz in the German research landscape. One reason for me to decide to join the HZI was that Helmholtz probably has the best reputation in Germany second only to Max Planck. The equipment and infrastructure are clearly better than at many universities.
THE HZI WILL TURN 50 THIS YEAR, HOW MUCH OF THAT DO YOU NOTICE?
SE: Quite a bit, not only through the e-mail announcements, but also by the large 50 that is moving through the buildings. We also work closely with the press department, which means we are right at the source of information.
SM: Exactly. I think the advertisement for the anniversary is very good and people are looking forward to the “Sommerfest” being a little different. Also, my doctoral supervisor, Melanie Brinkmann, participates in a film project that is related to the anniversary. I also thought it was great to see the large 50 move around on campus.
RL: The anniversary does hardly affect our daily routine. However, when you have been here for extended long time, this is a good time to look back and reflect on the past a little.
DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE CELEBRATE THE ANNIVERSARY?
RL: We also live of our image and therefore have to present ourselves to the people outside. But it is just as important to show, within the Centre, our level of commitment to our work and the HZI. To not celebrate an anniversary like that would be wrong in my opinion.
SE: I absolutely agree with you. Activities like the jubilee only strengthen your commitment to your employer which is very important to me. Events like this create an even better community spirit and the performance improves along with the level of comfort.
SM: I think events like that are really important because it gets the Centre into the focus of the public and people get to know what the HZI is. In addition, it brings a sense of togetherness to the Campus because it is bigger than the normal “Sommerfest”. In the scientific regard I like the idea of looking back and therefore the lecture series on the history of different scientific fields is going to be very interesting. So altogether it is a great thing to have the jubilee and it will help the HZI in many ways.
Everything was better in the past...
… or maybe not? On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the HZI we look back in the past and check a few examples if really everything was better in the past? Our conclusion: Not everything was better, in fact rather the opposite.
In the past…
… everything was cheaper!
Except science! In 2006 for instance the prize for sequencing a single human DNA was about 10 m Euro. Today you can get it for a few hundred Euros.
… everything was more easy-going!
But also slower! It took 13 years and more than 100 researchers from 40 different countries to decipher the human genome (from 1990 to 2003). Today it takes just a few hours and only one person to do so.
… everything was less superficial in the past!
Except our microscopes! Until the 16th century, no more than 9-fold magnification was attainable. At the end of the 17th century, the first microscopes made by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek were a major breakthrough. It allowed him to image objects at 270-fold magnification. By the end of the 19th century, Robert Koch was working with 1,500-fold magnification. Today's electron microscopes at the HZI can resolve structures down to 0.34 nanometres. This is equivalent to approximately 630,000-fold magnification.
… we achieved more!
Apart from things done by technical Equipment! Smartphones used today have more power than the computes used by the NASA during the moon landing in 1969.
… communication was more binding!
But also rarer! Communication between two research centres was a lot slower in the beginning and only worked by sending letters. The first mile stone for a more efficient and faster communication was the invention of the telephone 1861 by Johann Philipp Reis. But not before 1958 an extensive network was available in Germany. But still that is not comparable to the internet communications of today.
… we were better off!
Apart from when we got sick! In addition to new vaccines and drugs being on the market diagnostic methods have become faster, more efficient and cheaper. A MRT, the method for analysing the central nervous system, the motorsystem and the spinal canal, takes 20 minutes today compared to a couple of hours in the past.
A voyage through the history of infection research and the HZI
Lecture series "Infection research in the course of time" in September
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the HZI is offering a view behind the scenes through a lecture series titled "Infection research in the course of time".
The five-part series of lectures was started by Dirk Heinz on 1 September 2015 who spoke about the "HZI: 50 years of cutting edge research in our region". On the heels of this event, the presentation by Melanie Brinkmann took the audience on "A journey through the history of virological research".
Three more events in the course of September are yet to follow. . The lectures provide insights into the development of infection research - from the early days to today's modern approaches. What were the milestones in virus research? Which active substance producers created the basis for new medications? Which new strategies against antibiotics-resistant bacteria are pursued by the HZI today? The lecture series concludes with a presentation about innovative vaccination strategies, which will be held in English for international visitors.
Each lecture starts at 17.00 h in the Forum of the HZI. All interested citizens are invited to attend. The lectures are free of charge and no prior registration is required. There will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions after the lectures.
Upcoming events at one glance:
Wed. 16 Sept. 2015, 17.00 h: 50 years of natural product research in Braunschweig (Marc Stadler)
Wed. 23 Sept. 2015, 17.00 h: The fight against bacterial infectious diseases (Susanne Häußler)
Tue. 29 Sept. 2015, 17.00 h: Innovative technologies for better vaccines (Carlos A. Guzmán)
For more information, please visit: www.helmholtz-hzi.de/50
The "50" in the flashlight
In August and September, the large blue "50" was set up in various buildings of the HZI. We had asked all colleagues to get themselves photographed with it and to submit the photos to the Press and Communications office.
Some of the submissions are shown here. Thank you very much for participating and for your creative ideas. (cst)
HZI - Timeline
1965 - Foundation
The Institute for Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics (IMB) was officially established on 1 October. Hans-Herloff Inhoffen, a chemist from Göttingen and the father-in-spirit and founder of the Centre, identified the former production site of Gevaert, a photographic company, as a well-suited location for a pioneering and, even at the time, non-University research Institute and obtained the initial funding from the Volkswagenwerk Foundation. The scientists set up the first laboratories in what is Building A today.
1967 - Eintracht BS is football champion
1969 - First man on the moon
1974 - First VW-Golf produced
1975 - First female director
Maria-Regina Kula is appointed to the post of Scientific Executive Manager of the Centre, which had meanwhile been converted to a limited company and renamed GMBF (German Research Centre for Molecular Biology). Kula is the first woman to direct a major research facility in Germany.
1976 - Renamed GBF
The Federal Republic of Germany becomes the main shareholder of the Centre in 1975 and the center is renamed again: GBF (German Research Centre for Biotechnology). One year later, the federal state of Lower Saxony comes on board in and takes-over ten percent of the shares. The agreement stipulated by the federal and state governments in August 1976 ensures the funding of GBF and, thus, the future of the research centre.
1977 - "Star Wars" arrives in cinemas
1977 - The first public relations office
12 years after foundation of the IMB, the first public relations office was established at the Centre. The first public relations officer, Richard Radloff, started working for the GBF in March 1977. Until that time, J.-H. Walsdorf had also assumed the task of communicating with the media in addition to his "day job" in Scientific Reporting. The Press and Media department, as we know it today, was set up by Thomas Gazlig in the 1990s and has been refined ever since.
1979 - DSMZ Incorporation Spin-off
The German Collection of Microorganisms (Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen, DSM) was incorporated into the GBF in 1979. Until then, DSM, whose task is to support biotechnology research and the chemical-pharmaceutical industry through the collection, preservation and supply of microorganisms, had been part of the Gesellschaft für Strahlen- und Umweltforschung. Its head office was in Göttingen. In 1979, the DSM was relocated to Braunschweig as an independent working unit with 16 staff positions. The DSM became a legally independent entity in 1987.
1982 - Market launch of the CD
1984 - Personal computers conquer the mass-market
1985 - Boris Becker wins his first title at Wimbledon
1985 - Discovery of Epothilone
In 1985, epothilone was first isolated from the myxobacterium, Sorgangium cellulosum, by Gerhard Höfle and Hans Reichenbach at the GBF and the structure was elucidated. Patented in 1993. These structures were truly noted only when an in vitro screening at the NCI detected an extraordinarily strong effect on breast and colon tumour cells.
1986 - Discovery of Soraphen
One year later, in 1986, soraphen was discovered as a new product in myxobacteria. Ciba Geigy planned to market the agent as a pesticide against many fungi that was superior to common fungicides. Unfortunately, the agent also caused deformity in rat embryos. The further development was therefore stopped.
1989 - The WWW is born
1990 - German reunification
1992 - First Christmas party at Building D
In 1991, the first large HZI Christmas party was held at the old canteen in the A building. One year later, in 1992, the venue was changed and the Christmas party in the D building was born. Ever since, the party extending across four levels of the building's stairwell has become a legendary event producing new stories every year. Without doubt, one of the highlights is the "Champagne Elevator", which is not only used for transportation between the floors of the building.
1995 - Human genome project commences in Germany
In 1990, the human genome project aiming to fully decipher the human genome was started. Approximately 1,000 scientists from 40 countries contributed to the project. Germany and scientists from the GBF joined the project in 1995. Helmut Blöcker was the GBF's coordinator of the German human genome project and was therefore one of the people in charge of completely deciphering our genome, a success that was officially announced in 2003.
1995 - Corporate sports programme at the Centre
Each department of the Centre had, and has, its football aficionados. In 1995, Manfred Rohde, Ralf Bitter and their colleagues formed a team that has played in the corporate sports league in Braunschweig ever since. Back then, as today, the fun during the games and practice is much more important than winning. The team of 15-20 players, young and old, female and male from many nations, promotes team spirit and helps with integration.
2001 - Attack on the World Trade Center
2002 - Euro introduced as the currency in 19 countries.
2004 - Tsunami catastrophe in southeast Asia
2006 - Renaming
18 July 2006 is one of the most significant days in the history of the Braunschweig-Stöckheim research location. This is the day on which the Centre was renamed to become the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. Rudi Balling, Scientific Executive Manager at the time, played a crucial role in the - somewhat controversial - realignment and renaming of the Association for Biotechnology Research to form the HZI. An interview with him is part of the cornicles, starting on page 126.
2007 - Grand opening of "Schloss Arkaden Braunschweig"
2008 - Foundation of Twincore
In 2008, the Twincore Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research was founded in Hannover . Twincore stands for a twin core of basic research and clinical practice. Medical practitioners and applied science specialists from a wide range of fields engage in collaborative research. They investigate what happens on a molecular level during chronic infections by bacteria, viruses or fungi, they analyse resistance and study where and how vaccines and active substances might attack. Aiming for novel diagnostic methods, vaccines and therapies for patients. (556)
2009 - Foundation of the HIPS
Resistance to antibiotics is one of the major global challenges posed by infectious diseases. This is the field the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) focusses on. Founded in 2009 by the HZI and the University of Saarland, the HIPS aims to contribute to the development of new drugs and therapeutic options for infectious diseases. The researchers at the HIPS search for new active substances and refine them for use in man. (523)
2009 - Animal facility II
For their research to be successful, the scientists at the HZI need to work with laboratory animals. For this reason, we have two animal facilities on campus, with the second one, opened on 27 August, 2009, being one of the most advanced animal facilities in Europe. The acting Scientific Executive Manager at the time, Jürgen Wehland, praised the project during the opening ceremony: "This major investment strengthens the scientific power of the HZI and its cooperation partners and is an enormous gain for the Braunschweig Science Region."
2009 - HZI Graduate School founded
Since 2009, the International Graduate School of the HZI has been the best choice for phd students seeking a career in the field of infection research. Directed by Sabine Kirchhoff, the phd training at the HZI has developed into one of the most distinguished programmes of its kind in Germany. Each year, some 40 phd students from around the world start their doctoral thesis at the HZI; altogether, some 150 phd students from more than 40 different countries work on the campus.
2012 - Foundation of the DZIF
The German Centre for Infection Research is one of six major research associations in the Health Sciences in Germany. Approximately 300 scientists from 35 research institutions have been working collaboratively on the burning questions of health research since 2012. Since the business office of the DZIF is situated on the HZI campus, the partnership here in Braunschweig is particularly intimate.
2013 - Grand opening of Building S3
Building S3 has been available to HZI scientists for research on highly virulent pathogens since 2013. A total of five laboratories are used for research on FSME, EHEC, avian influenza, Dengue virus, HIV and, soon to come, hepatitis C.
The building is classified as containment, i.e. nothing leaves the building without being inactivated or filtered first. The researchers work fully protected by clothing consisting of an overall, respiratory protection and three pairs of gloves. Currently, only 27 HZI researchers have access to the safety laboratories. Each individual completed a special work training and a one-week safety instructions programme.
2015 - 50th anniversary
For more information about the development of the Centre, please take a look at the chronicles of the HZI, which will be available starting 24 Sept. 2015. Former executive managers and other contemporaries serve as witness and describe the history in their own words.