2020-05-08

Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Minister Björn Thümler visit the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Discussions on the current challenges in infection research with the researchers at the HZI in Braunschweig

A distinguished visitor to the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research: The Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Lower Saxony’s Minister of Science and Culture Björn Thümler visited the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig today. The focus of the visit was on current challenges and innovative solutions, especially in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 and the future development of infection research in Lower Saxony.

_MG_3117__590x240_.jpgThe Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Lower Saxony’s Minister of Science and Culture Björn Thümler visited the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. © HZI / Verena Meier At the start of the visit, which began in the HZI Forum conference hall, Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI, gave an overview of the HZI’s research strategy and the close collaboration with partners in Lower Saxony: “The aim of our research is to decipher infection and resistance mechanisms of bacteria and viruses, understand the human immune system’s response and, from these, develop new methods for preventing and treating infections. Personalised infection medicine is one of our most important research topics for the future. It aims to better understand the different courses of individual infections and to enable tailored, patient-specific interventions.”

_MG_3076__340x220_.jpgCampus tour during the visit from Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Lower Saxony’s Minister of Science and Culture Björn Thümler. © HZI / Verena Meier Especially with regard to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the HZI has pooled its resources for projects that contribute to solutions to contain the infection. Within the framework of its research strategy, the HZI is also well prepared and sufficiently flexible to react quickly to such disease outbreaks. This enables it to apply its scientific expertise and infrastructure in relevant areas, such as virology, epidemiology, immunology and drug research, on an interdisciplinary basis and to respond in a targeted manner to such challenges.

“Initial projects have already shown demonstrable results, such as new antiviral drug and antibody candidates against SARS-CoV-2, the national and international use of SORMAS, a mobile phone-based disease monitoring tool, new studies on immune responses in cured patients and competent policy advice from virologists, epidemiologists and data scientists,” said Heinz.

The basic research and the infrastructure that we have established here in Lower Saxony are now proving to be very flexible and rapidly adaptable in the current situation. 

Prime Minister Stephan Weil

A tour of the Science Campus and a glimpse from the outside into the HZI’s biosafety level 3 laboratory, as well as the new drug development centre that is currently being completed, gave the guests a good impression of the research work at the centre during these times of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Stephan Weil summed up his visit: “Infectious diseases continue to be a global threat to human health and are the cause of a fifth of all fatalities throughout the world even in the 21st century. The HZI is particularly noteworthy, both in Germany and especially in Lower Saxony, for its strategy and is excellently prepared for outbreaks of infection such as the current corona pandemic, but also for challenges such as the spread of antibiotic resistance or newly emerging pathogens. The basic research and the infrastructure that we have established here in Lower Saxony are now proving to be very flexible and rapidly adaptable in the current situation. Thank you very much to the entire, extremely agile team at the HZI, which, in this exceptional situation, has adapted its research within just a few weeks despite maintaining only a basic operation, and can even show some initial promising results.”

Minister of Science and Culture Thümler said at the end of the visit, “The HZI has established itself in recent years as an outstanding centre for infection research. In collaboration with important partners, such as the German Center for Infection Research, the HZI covers more and more of the entire innovation chain in infection medicine – from basic research to applications. This has enabled us to develop basic and application-oriented infection research into a key focus in Lower Saxony in recent years. I am particularly pleased that we were able to fund, at short notice, many research projects at the HZI for basic research on the novel coronavirus and for effective containment of the corona pandemic, thanks to the excellent scientific expertise and the necessary high-performance infrastructure, such as high-throughput testing of potential active substances or biosafety level 3 laboratories.”

Further information about projects currently underway to research the novel coronavirus are here.

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