Stephan Weil: “Thank you for your tireless commitment”

Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil in dialogue with researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig

The Minister President of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, visited the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) today, 4 February 2022. The visit focused on the current challenges and innovative approaches, especially in combating the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and the future development of infection research in Lower Saxony. He also delivered a message of thanks to the scientists at the research centre in Braunschweig.

Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI, and the Minister President of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil.Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI, and the Minister President of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil. © HZI / Verena Meier“We are now about two years after the start of the Corona pandemic and I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the entire staff of the HZI as representatives of science and research in Lower Saxony,” said Minister President Stephan Weil at the beginning of his visit to the Helmholtz Centre in Braunschweig. “Science has been extremely helpful to us with very good assessments and advice on measures to combat the pandemic from competent researchers.”

At the beginning of the visit, which started at the HZI Forum, Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI, gave an overview of the HZI's current research strategy: “Especially in view of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the HZI has pooled its resources for projects that contribute to solutions to contain the infections. We can use our scientific expertise and infrastructures in relevant fields such as virology, epidemiology, immunology and drug research in an interdisciplinary way and respond flexibly and specifically to such challenges,” said Heinz. Particularly presentable results are new antiviral drug and antibody candidates against SARS-CoV-2, the national and international use of the disease surveillance tool SORMAS, new studies on immune responses in convalescents as well as competent policy advice by the HZI researchers.

Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil with a scientist from the junior research group "Nanoscale Infection Biology" at the HZI.Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil with a scientist from the junior research group "Nanoscale Infection Biology" at the HZI. © HZI / Verena MeierStephan Weil expressed special thanks to virologist Prof Melanie Brinkmann, epidemiologist Prof Gérard Krause and physicist and data scientist Prof Michael Meyer-Hermann for their efforts in raising awareness about the Covid-19 disease and pandemic containment measures in addition to their research work. Brinkmann and Meyer-Hermann also represent Lower Saxony on the Federal Government's Council of Experts. The Minister President also exchanged views with the scientists on the possible further course of the pandemic, in which many different epidemiological aspects must be taken into account.

A concluding tour of the Science Campus Braunschweig-Süd and a visit to the research laboratory of Jun-Prof Christian Sieben, head of the new junior research group “Nanoscale Infection Biology”, gave the Minister President an impression of the current research on infection mechanisms of viruses that trigger respiratory diseases.

“It has once again been shown that Lower Saxony has an outstanding centre of excellence in infection research in the HZI, which is recognised nationwide and beyond. Through the exchange with the researchers, I was once again confirmed in how important a high vaccination rate is for our people to live in a new normality with Corona in the near future,” summarised Minister President Stephan Weil on his visit.

One final concern was very important to him: “I would especially like to encourage researchers to always go public with their important results, even if they are sometimes exposed to hostility. The voice of science is important and must be heard.”

The Minister President was accompanied by the Braunschweig members of the Bundestag Anikó Merten and Dr Christos Pantazis as well as the local members of the Lower Saxony state parliament Annette Schütze, Susanne Schütz and Christoph Bratmann.

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