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 technology and knowledge transfer.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
The virtual “Institute for Biomedical Translation (IBT) Lower Saxony” sets a milestone for a faster transfer of research results from the focus areas of infection medicine, organ repair and neuroscience. The IBT is intended to bring together the strengths of the Hannover-Göttingen-Braunschweig metropolitan region in a synergistic and complementary way. The core objective of the institute, conceived by the HZI, MHH, Göttingen Medical School and Sartorius, is to transfer important research results as quickly as possible into innovative preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, including applications in the fields of medical technology and public health. In addition to cutting-edge biomedical technologies, data-intensive, systems medicine procedures are also to be applied here, which will allow more patient-specific treatment approaches in the future.
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.
Hepatitis D is caused by co-infection with the hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis D (HDV) viruses and is the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis. It often leads to liver failure, liver cancer and death. Many details of the disease are still not understood: Why does the immune system of up to 50% of those affected manage to control the multiplication of the hepatitis D viruses in the body? And why do some patients respond to antiviral therapy, but not others? These are only two of the questions that the D-SOLVE research consortium, in which researchers from the MHH, the CiiM and the HZI are involved together with other partners in Europe, wants to clarify. To this end, data and biosamples from more than 500 patients with HDV will be collected and analysed in order to find specific biomarkers for the immune response to infection. The results will then be used to develop a new approach for the personalised treatment of HDV.
The Lower Saxony COVID-19 Research Network (COFONI) bundles expertise and competences in corona research. The long-term goal is to clarify fundamental questions about SARS-CoV-2, such as the molecular basis for the development of active agents and vaccines or for the treatment of patients. The knowledge gained should contribute to new therapeutic options for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infections and the development of prevention strategies. All participants have access to a central technology platform that provides overarching methods, animal models as well as data and biobanks for joint use. The network was founded on the initiative of the Göttingen Medical School (UMG), the HZI, the Hanover Medical School (MHH) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) in October 2020.
As part of the Helmholtz research campaign on the Corona pandemic, HZI scientists are involved in two of the funded research projects. In the project "Virological and immunological determinants of COVID-19 pathogenesis - lessons for preparing for future pandemics" (CoViPa), researchers from seven Helmholtz Centres are working together with universities and partners from industry. They want to elucidate the immunological and virological mechanisms by which the SARS-CoV-2 virus triggers disease processes. This knowledge should help to develop effective strategies to combat the current pandemic and to be better prepared for future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
In the joint project "Integrated Early Warning System for Local Detection, Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease Outbreaks" (LOKI), researchers are developing an early warning system for local detection, prevention and control of infectious disease outbreaks. The aim of this project is to provide a tailor-made and practical tool for the detection of infectious disease outbreaks for public health departments. With the help of the modelling of the infection occurrence, which includes local characteristics such as the number of contacts, daily routes or age structure of a region, tailor-made measures can then be used to combat an outbreak of an infectious disease.
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. The system, called the “Smart Infection Control System” (SmICS), originally developed to track infections caused by bacteria, was adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to detect infection chains for SARS-CoV-2.
The NFDI4Microbiota consortium is part of the National Research Data Infrastructure NFDI. This aims to systematically open up and network the valuable research data holdings for the German science system and thus make them more usable. NFDI4Microbiota, which is co-coordinated by the HZI and involves more than 50 institutions, aims to support the microbiological research community in Germany with access to data, tools for analysing data, standards for data and metadata, and a comprehensive range of training services.
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.
The EU is funding the HZI-coordinated training network “European Network Linking Informatics and Genomics of Helper T Cells in Tissues” (ENLIGHT-TEN+), which aims to investigate the factors that influence the properties of tissue-resident T cells. As part of the adaptive immune system, T cells are involved in the defence against pathogens, but can also attack the body's own structures and thus trigger autoimmune diseases. The aim of the network is to provide interdisciplinary training for doctoral students at academic and non-academic institutions in ten European countries. They will be trained in the methods of cellular immunology as well as bioinformatics data analysis.