Custom-made medicine against bacteria and viruses

Individualised procedures for infection control: HZI and MHH found new centre, "CIIM"

A model for the future. It is the aim of the CIIM to integrate insights and analytical methods from clinical scenarios and basic research in order to develop new diagnostics and individualised…© HZITo find custom-made therapies for each infection patient: This is the long-term goal of the "Centre for Individualised Infection Medicine" (CIIM), which is to commence operations on 03 December. The CIIM is a joint facility of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Hannover Medical School (MHH). The facility will be directed by Prof Michael P. Manns, who is a medical doctor from the MHH and has been the Clinical Director of the HZI since 01 October 2015.
The approach of individualised medicine is to focus more strongly on the needs of individual patients or groups of patients in order to improve the outcome of the treatment. This is to be made possible through systematic diagnostic workups, specific prevention and custom-made therapeutic procedures. The most important foundation in this context is the molecular analysis of patient samples: It helps in the process of "stratification" - which means sub-dividing the patients into groups from which specific treatment options can be derived.

"In some fields, for example cancer medicine, remarkable success has been attained through the stratification of patients and the resulting individualised therapies," says Prof Manns. He is one of the leading specialists for liver diseases in the world. Manns is the Director of the Clinic for Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology of the MHH and, in October, assumed the newly created position of Clinical Director of the HZI in Braunschweig.

"Individualised therapies have also been used successfully against infectious diseases," explains Prof Dirk Heinz, who is the Scientific Director of the HZI. "But the concepts of individualised medicine still have much untapped potential especially with a view to the diagnostic workup and treatment of infections." Individual situations affect the course of disease significantly: Patients respond very differently to infections depending on their genetic and physiological parameters, age, previous disease or lifestyle. Pathogens, in turn, show high variability and can produce variants ranging from harmless to dangerous. Often, a third factor is involved, i.e. the individual bacterial flora of the patient, the so-called microbiota, which plays a significant role in infection and defence processes. In addition, patients respond very differently to anti-infective therapy. Moreover, the individual risk of wrong effects and/or side effects also varies.

The approach of the CIIM is as follows: "We at the CIM aim to develop personalised approaches to infection medicine," says MHH President Prof Christopher Baum. "We aim to bring together scientists from the HZI and researchers and clinicians from the MHH and to network them.“
Prof Ulrich Kalinke, Director of the TWINCORE, adds: "The role of the new centre, which is to cooperate closely with the TWINCORE, is to promote the process of Translation, i.e. the transfer of insights from basic research to medical application."

The main focus of interest of the research at the CIIM will be on chronic infections, for example by Hepatitis and herpes viruses, and on infections in immunocompromised patients. In addition, the researchers also aim to develop individualised approaches to gastrointestinal infections and lung diseases - for example to identify risk patients with severe courses of disease and to enable the administration of appropriate therapy at an early time.

In the initial phase, the CIIM will utilise the existing infrastructure of its founder institutions. But this is not expected to be a permanent solution: "The CIIM needs to be accommodated in a new research building as soon as possible," explains Manns, the CIIM's founding director. "We already have an appropriate plot of land in the vicinity of the TWINCORE and MHH for this purpose."

Aside from the internationally renowned research groups, these premises are to accommodate networks of medicine, which are directed from Hannover and relate to infection medicine, and their branches, such as the German Liver Foundation and the Competence Network Hepatitis Hep-Net and the Competence Network for Acquired Pneumonia, CapNetz. Another aim is to integrate the research activities of the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) at the Hannover / Braunschweig site at the research building of the CIIM. "In addition to the research goals, the basic research training of specialists in infection medicine also rates high in the overall concept of the CIIM," says Manns. "The centre will be founded as a unique crystallisation point for the translation of research in infection medicine at the Hannover-Braunschweig site possessing trans-regional significance."
The CIIM will be founded during the 7th TWINCORE Symposium www.twincore.de/veranstaltungen/twincore-symposium-2015 following a presentation of the CIIM by Prof Manns on 03 December (estimated time 15:45-16:30 h) at the large conference room of the TWINCORE - Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, Feodor-Lynen-Str. 7 in Hannover. Members of the media are invited to attend, please register in due time with jennifer.debarry@helmholtz-hzi.de. If you have any questions by phone, please call 0151-52726146.

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