31.05.2018

Federal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek and State Minister Björn Thümler visit Infection Research Centres in Hannover

In discussion with researchers from the HZI and the MHH at the NAKO study centre and the TWINCORE in Hannover

High-ranking visitors at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Hannover Medical School (MHH): Federal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek and Lower Saxony's Minister for Science and Culture Björn Thümler used their personal visit on 31 May 2018 to catch up on the state of modern infection research in Lower Saxony. They visited the study centre of the NAKO health study in Hannover, which is being coordinated by the HZI, and the TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, an institution that is run jointly by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig and the Hannover Medical School.

BMBF_Besuch_590x240.jpgHZI-Scientist Susanne Häußler with Federal Minister Anja Karliczek and State Minister Björn Thümler. © Ralf MohrFederal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek and State Minister Björn Thümler today caught up with the current challenges and innovative approaches in modern infection research in Lower Saxony. They visited the HZI-operated study centre of the NAKO health study in Hannover and the near-by TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, an institution that is run jointly by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and the Hannover Medical School (MHH).

Federal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek. © Rauß FotografieFederal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek. © Rauß Fotografie"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. Germany faces up to its responsibility concerning the research and control of infections. In this effort, we are joining forces with partners from many countries on an international level. The HZI in Braunschweig has developed into a centre of excellence in infection research in recent years. But the main health hazard in Western countries are those chronic diseases that are wide-spread throughout the populations. The NAKO health study is expected to produce new scientific insights helping to control these diseases - also in terms of the influence of infectious diseases on their manifestation," the Federal Minister said during her visit.

Björn_Thümler_340x220.jpgLower Saxony's Minister of Science and Culture Björn Thümler. (Photo: brauers.com)The NAKO health study is Germany's largest cohort study. It includes 18 sites nation-wide, at which a total of 200,000 randomly selected people will be subjected, in the upcoming years, to a medical examination and an interview concerning their lifestyle habits. One unique feature of the NAKO health study is the prospective long-term follow up on infectious diseases, which is a focus of the study site in Hannover. There is no other study anywhere in the world that looks at the relationships between common infectious diseases and other, non-transmittable, but wide-spread diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.

Nako_340x220.pngAnja Karliczek and Björn Thümler were taken on a guided tour of the examination rooms at the NAKO study centre. And, to set an example for others, Karliczek and Thümler went through some of the subjects' examinations to get a close up view of the study. A total of 8672 subjects were examined at the study centre in Hannover by the end of April.

MHH_340x220.pngThe focus of their subsequent visit to the TWINCORE was on the translational research as the interface between basic research and clinical development. Medical practitioners and applied science specialists from a wide range of fields work side-by-side at the TWINCORE investigating issues of infection research. The interdisciplinary research centre is a facility that is run jointly by the HZI and the Hannover Medical School.

"In recent years, the basic research and application-oriented infection research was developed into a focal topic in Lower Saxony. One highlight in this context is the biomedical translation alliance in Lower Saxony that was initiated by the HZI and other academic and extramural partners in Braunschweig and Hannover. This federal state provided substantial funding for the successful establishment of the alliance and recognises the scientific progress made within the network," Thümler says. "Important research projects, such as the NAKO health study, position us in an international context and demonstrate the competitiveness of German science. I would therefore like to ask all randomly selected subjects to actively participate in the health study and to make a valuable personal contribution to the health of future generations."

Researching bacteria and viruses, understanding the response of the human immune system and searching for new drugs - these topics are in the focus of our current work. 

Prof Dirk Heinz, scientific director of the HZI

Prof Dirk Heinz, the Scientific Director of the HZI, presented a short overview of the current research topics of the HZI and the intimate co-operations with regional and international partners. "Researching bacteria and viruses, understanding the response of the human immune system and searching for new drugs - these topics are in the focus of our current work. Based on its strategic positioning, the HZI takes important decisions to promote its development into an internationally leading institution in infection research," Heinz says. "In collaboration with important co-operation 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. We count a personalised infection medicine amongst the most important research topics for the future. This field aims to enable individual, custom-made therapies.“ 

A laboratory visit at the Department of Experimental Virology gave the visitors an impression of the daily research work at the Centre.

Background of the NAKO Health Study:

Since 2014, men and women between the age of 20 and 69 that were randomly selected from the population registers have been subjected to medical examinations and an interview concerning their lifestyle habits at 18 study centres throughout Germany in the scope of the NAKO health study. The aim of this study is to closely investigate chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatism, infections and depression in order to improve the prevention, early detection and treatment of these widespread diseases. This multi-centre project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the participating state governments and the Helmholtz Association. By the end of April 2018, more than 160,000 people had taken part in the study (of which more than 22,000 underwent the additional one-hour MRT whole body examination). For more information, please visit www.nako.de.

Press contact
Glorianna Bisognin-Nechwatal
NAKO Business Office Project communication 
Phone +49(0)6221- 42620-61
Email: presse@nako.de

Background TWINCORE:

Researchers from a wide range of fields work side-by-side on topics of infection research at the TWINCORE. Their focus is on translational research, i.e. the interface between basic research and clinical development. The aim is to accelerate the development of the latest insights of basic research into new therapies or diagnostic procedures for humans. At the same time, the researchers from the basic sciences are looking for answers arising from the clinical work. Their focus is on infectious diseases of the liver, gastrointestinal tract, lung and the central nervous system. The research groups investigate materials from patients, conduct clinical observation studies and work with cell culture systems and animal models in a clinical and preclinical-translational scope. For more information, please visit www.twincore.de

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