Anja Karliczek visits Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland and Saarland University

Federal Minister of Education and Research gained insights into key areas of focus at Saarland University

On her visit to Saarland on 11 June, 2019, the Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek informed herself about the current profile and areas of research at the Saarland University, and in particular about the further development of the scientific focus of NanoBioMed with special involvement of the HIPS. She spoke with the director of the institute, Prof Rolf Müller, and the president of the university, Prof Manfred Schmitt, and the Prime Minister of Saarland, Tobias Hans, about specific options for the future development of the HIPS and Saarland University in the field of pharmaceutical drug research. The current challenges facing infection research were a particular focus. The HIPS is a branch of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, operated in close collaboration with Saarland University.


In the presence of the Federal Minister and the Prime Minister, the University President and Managing Director of the HIPS signed a memorandum of understanding. The aim of the research alliance is to promote partner initiatives that work on medically and pharmaceutically relevant topics in drug and infection research, in the form of interdisciplinary tandem projects with participation from scientists at the HIPS and the M (Medicine), MI (Mathematics and Computer Science) and NT (Natural Sciences and Technology) faculties. To this end, the partners will coordinate their agendas and investments, increasingly make joint appointments, allow reciprocal ancillary activities, strengthen all options for supporting joint professorships and engage in joint research alliances to secure national and international funding.

Tobias Hans, who is also in charge of science, research and technology in Saarland's state cabinet, emphasises: “We have big plans. We want to focus not only on IT, but also on BioNanoMed. We strongly support the growth of the HIPS, because we know that there is a promising future in the field of pharmaceutical research. Far too many people are still dying because of antibiotic resistance. We must fight this, but that requires significant state involvement.”

“The HIPS is the first Helmholtz institute in Germany with a pharmaceutical research focus and was established at the Saarbrücken campus in 2009 with pharmacy professors from the university serving as its founding directors,” says University President Manfred Schmitt. “Based on the highly successful scientific interaction of the HIPS and the university in research and teaching, specifically between the life science areas in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, the Faculty of Medicine and the interdisciplinary and cross-site Center for Bioinformatics,
the pioneering drug research at the interface of pharmacy, biomedicine and bioinformatics has developed outstandingly and can now be considered to be example-setting.”

In the HIPS laboratories, which were visited by Karliczek and Hans on their tour, an international team of scientists from various disciplines is working collaboratively on the discovery and development of new anti-infective drugs to counteract the increasing development of resistance by pathogens. Multi-resistant bacteria are one of the major current challenges in biomedical research, since pathogens are finding more ways to circumvent the existing therapies. This makes them resistant to medications that were effective only a few years ago. “One major part of the problem is that the development of new effective antibiotics has been stagnating for the past decades,” Rolf Müller says. The HIPS researchers are therefore searching urgently for novel agents against infectious diseases, aiming to optimise these agents for application in humans and research the ways in which these agents can be best transported through the body to their site of action.

The HIPS was founded jointly by the Saarland University (UdS) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in 2009 and continues to be the only extramural research institute focusing on pharmaceutical research in Germany. In 2015 the researchers moved to the new laboratory building at the campus in Saarbrücken, sponsored by state funds and the European Fund for Regional Development, where the HIPS researchers, in close alliance and cooperation with Saarland University, find optimal conditions to continue making important contributions to basic pharmaceutical research.