Cooperation with numerous institutes, research groups and industry shapes science at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. With these networks and partners we guarantee best science and technology transfer.
Within the Cluster of Excellence RESIST – Resolving Infection Susceptibility - scientists aim to gain a better understanding of infection susceptibility. The focus of RESIST is on people who are at particular risk for infections, such as newborns, elderly and individuals with a dampened immune response due to therapeutic reasons. RESIST is a powerful research consortium with six research and clinical institutions across Germany. These institutions combine excellent basic research with internationally leading clinical research and access to patients. The consortium will lay the scientific basis for the development of innovative approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat severe infections in susceptible patients.
Despite growing demand, the development of anti-infectives has collapsed dramatically due to a combination of scientific and economic challenges. Therefore, together with Griffith University (Australia), Fraunhofer ITEM and MHH, HZI works in the International Consortium for Anti-Infective Research (iCAIR) on the preclinical development of anti-infectives for respiratory infectious diseases. The overall goal of iCAIR is the establishment of an international, publicly accessible platform for anti-infective research and development. iCAIR acts as an umbrella under which anti-infective drug development is jointly promoted by various international partners with complementary expertise in order to make the concepts accessible for further utilization by the pharmaceutical/biotech industry.
Within the project Vaccine for Prevention and Treatment of Trypanosoma cruzi Infection (CRUZIVAX), a consortium of eleven partners coordinated by HZI has been awarded funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 work programme. The aim of this project is to develop a highly effective, low-cost and easy to administer prophylactic vaccine candidate for Chagas disease. The vaccine is to be applied as a nasal spray. Chagas disease, also known as American Trypanosomiasis, is a chronic parasitic disease caused by the flagellated protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). It is a vector-borne disease, but the parasite can also be transmitted by congenital route, blood transfusions and organ transplantation or by ingesting contaminated food. Chagas disease is currently endemic to 21 Latin-American countries and has also become a world wide concern as a result of globalization and mass migration of chronically infected individuals.
Scientists of HZI, the University of Vienna and the University of Bielefeld started an initiative titled "CAMI – Critical Assessment of Metagenome Interpretation". CAMI is a competition in which scientists test methods of computational biology on various metagenome data sets and then jointly evaluate their results. With computational analysis, everybody can join in developing new tools to decipher the diversity of microbial species.
HZI is part of the European Infrastructure of Open Screening Platforms for Chemical Biology (EU-OPENSCREEN). The consortium consisting of 19 European partners offers the most advanced technologies to identify new compounds that can be used as new drugs against common diseases. The HZI aims to find and develop new therapeutics against bacterial and viral pathogens.
In the “Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative – Infectious Disease Research” (HAI-IDR), the University of Alberta (Canada) and HZI join complementary world-class expertise and resources in the fight against infections caused by hepatitis viruses. The main objective of the collaborative program is the development of preventive vaccines and treatments against liver disease caused by hepatitis B and C viruses. In addition to its research programme, the HAI-IDR also contains an integrated education and training programme for the next generation of scientists, and promotes technology transfer to benefit patients all over the world. In the long run, HAI-IDR envisions expanding into other viral diseases and helping meet emerging and future infectious diseases.
In cooperation with the Chinese Shandong University, an interdisciplinary research team at the Helmholtz International Lab is working on the development of antibacterial and antiviral strategies that will ultimately lead to innovative drug candidates. Research is conducted in four therapeutic areas: “Drug resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections”, “Tuberculosis”, “Hand, foot and mouth disease caused by EV-A71” and “Bronchiolitis caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus”. The cooperation aims to bring new active compounds to the clinical proof-of-concept stage.
The Translational Alliance in Lower Saxony (TRAIN) is an association of ten institutions of biomedical research in the Braunschweig - Hannover area, which is supported by the Ministry of Science and Culture of the State of Lower Saxony. In this collaboration, university and non-university research institutions pool their knowledge and infrastructures in order to further develop new potential agents and vaccines. The cooperation within TRAIN enables the transfer of projects through the individual stages of development from basic research to pre-clinical and clinical application.
In the collaborative project “CDInfect”, scientists from HZI are part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers exploring the infection strategies of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). C. difficile colonizes the intestine of infected patients. It damages host tissue through the production of toxins, which can cause severe forms of diarrhoea that eventually lead to the death of individuals. Long-term goals of this project are to derive a detailed understanding of the infection process to ultimately unravel opportunities for the development of new pharmaceuticals against C. difficile.
HZI is part of the large German research consortium HIGHmed – Heidelberg – Göttingen – Hannover – Medical Informatics. The consortium aims to develop a novel IT-infrastructure to reduce the translation time between discovered research results and their implementation into clinical care. HiGHmed focuses on three prototypical use cases oncology, cardiology and infection targeting major challenges in medical informatics. HZI contributes to the Use Case “Infection Control”, where an automated detection system (Smart Infection Control System, SmICS) will be developed and tested to prevent and contain hospital-acquired infections.
The Helmholtz Drug Research Initiative is coordinated by HZI. To fully realize the translational potential of findings generated within the Helmholtz Association, drug researchers from all centres of the Helmholtz Research Field Health exchange expertise and share assets through a joint platform. Their aim is to discover and develop new drugs against various diseases and thereby respond to the growing demand for new therapeutics.
Within Aging and Metabolic Programming (AMPro), all centres from the Helmholtz Research Field Health joined forces to explore innovative prevention and treatment approaches to age-related diseases. As the population grows older, our society will be increasingly confronted with age-related non-communicable diseases accompanied by a weakened immune system, leading to complications such as greater susceptibility to infections. AMPro aims at investigating three interrelated aspects that help determine metabolic health and aging in humans: They focus on genetic and epigenetic factors, inter-organ communication and tissue maintenance.
Immunology & Inflammation unifies efforts in immunological research of the Helmholtz Association. 23 working groups from five Helmholtz Health Centres cooperate to tackle some of the most complex problems in immunology. They address key questions such as: How do the immune system and nervous system interact? How does the microenvironment of tissue influence the development of immune cells and which effects does it have on the development of cancer? How do we use this knowledge for therapies? The collaborative work includes cross-centre research projects, the exchange of scientists, the organisation of national symposia and fellowship programmes for young scientists.