Hortense Slevogt - Building Bridges

Hortense Slevogt investigates the immune response in the lungs - as a physician and as a researcher.

Professor Hortense Slevogt is an expert in the field of respiratory and lung infections and immunology. Both as a renowned researcher and a doctor. If you ask her for a catchy name for what she does, she doesn't hesitate: "I build bridges." Bridges between research and clinical practice.

Slevogt has been a W3 professor at Hannover Medical School since 2022 and is a senior physician for clinical infectiology with the Department of Pneumology and Infectiology. She is also the head of the "Dynamics of respiratory infections" research group at the HZI in Braunschweig. In her role as a clinical scientist, she finds it extremely fulfilling to translate discoveries from the laboratory and clinical studies into direct benefits for patients.

If we produce good data, that is promising for a new application.

Hortense Slevogt, Head of HZI research group Dynamics of Respiratory Infections

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a very common respiratory disease. Slevogt has mainly focused her research on the host immune response to airway colonisation by potential lung pathogens in this lung disease and others. It has only been recognised in the past ten years that the respiratory tract and lungs are also colonised by a microbiome that is generally not pathogenic but plays an important role in maintaining lung ecology and preventing infections by lung pathogens. This is where the research of Slevogt and her team starts. The goal is to develop therapeutic strategies for many respiratory diseases by better understanding the interactions of these microbes.

However, filing for third-party funding precedes every research project. Looking at the positive side, the project has to be carefully worded, which makes it more concrete in the mind's eye and often initiates yet another perusal of the existing literature on the subject. With an approval rate of one in three or one in four, one must tolerate frustration rather well. But that is more of an incentive to Hortense Slevogt: "If we produce good data, that is promising for a new application." Her guiding principle: be curious, unwavering and passionate about science.

For seventeen years, Slevogt treated patients with severe infectious diseases such as pneumonia, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the Charité's infectious diseases department. During this time she also researched the immunological host-pathogen interactions of potential pathogens in the lung. Her habilitation followed in 2009. In 2011, she successfully expanded her research in molecular biology in Jena to include the field of immunology of sepsis. She was involved from the very beginning and quite significantly in setting up the Host Septomics research group of the ZIK Septomics at the University Hospital Jena. Her research has linked immunological sepsis and infection research to clinical research – which takes us back to the bridge metaphor. Since 2016, she has also taken on clinical tasks again in the clinical pneumology department in Jena.

Hortense Slevogt's family resides in Berlin. She is a "successful commuter" thanks to her "supportive husband" and the help of nannies and housekeepers. She appreciates her husband's great interest in her work. He is a paediatrician and runs a large medical care centre in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Her daughter is studying medicine, "but with a focus on neurology," while her son is currently working on his German equivalent of the A levels. She finds horseback riding through Brandenburg or Lower Saxony with her family to be the best way to relax.

Author: Susanne Jasper
Published: November 2023

MAGAZINE DOWNLOAD 01/2022

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Dr Andreas Fischer

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