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The new Cluster for precision medicine supports clinical scientists and facilitates innovations in patient care


There is a lack of clinical researchers nationwide. A structured clinician scientist programme creates opportunities for clinic-related research projects, which transfer recent advances in fundamental medical research into practice in healthcare. 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced that the Cluster “Inflammation at Interfaces” has won funding for the third time, amidst tough competition. This success in the German Excellence Strategy is based on the significant and internationally-visible progress achieved in the investigation of chronic inflammatory processes during the two funding periods of its forerunner, the Excellence Initiative. The causes of chronic inflammatory diseases have been revealed. The newly-approved Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) will put these scientific advances into practice for patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, by enabling faster diagnoses and the planning of personalised treatment. In order for this transfer from molecular to clinical medicine to succeed, the new PMI Cluster will especially support the careers of researching clinicians.  To do so, a nationally-groundbreaking new programme is being launched for training young clinical researchers from 2019 onwards, together with the medical faculties, the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein and the Ärztekammer Schleswig-Holstein medical association. 

Researchers employed in clinics are instrumental in transferring findings from fundamental research to healthcare as quickly as possible. They are the bridge between fundamental research and practical application. At least in theory. In practice, however, normal clinical duties leave hardly any time for ambitious research projects, which must then be carried out after working hours. This is neither attractive nor sustainable, and explains why there is a lack of doctors nationwide who treat patients and simultaneously research successfully. Therefore, the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) has launched a structured clinician scientist programme, certified by the Ärztekammer Schleswig-Holstein medical association. It supports researching clinicians in different phases of their training, both during and after their specialisation, and gives them protected time for research.  The residency period to become a specialist is only extended slightly, and science is closely intertwined with the practical clinical training. 

Having contact with patients and participating in healthcare is important for the young specialist in internal medicine, Dr Konrad Aden. "At the same time, however, we also need protected periods in which to conduct time-consuming and organisationally-complex research. There is no other way to manage this," explained the research associate at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at Kiel University and specialist at the Department of Internal Medicine I at UKSH Kiel. As a specialist in internal medicine and gastroenterologist, Aden’s patients include people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. For those affected, there is a range of new, theoretically highly-effective drugs. However, which of these expensive drugs will work in each individual case can still not be accurately predicted. “At present, we commence treatment with one of the available drugs, and can only tell after three months whether it’s working or not. We do believe, however, that it is possible to predict this accurately in advance." Aden would like to develop this approach further in the new funding period. 

Dr Jan Heyckendorf also works at the interface between clinical practice and research. The consultant is head of the Endoscopy and Functional Department of the Medical Clinic at the Research Center Borstel, and explores new concepts for tuberculosis treatment on the basis of genome-based diagnostics: "At the Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center, we are developing customised treatments to significantly improve results against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and to reduce the risk of transmission. The PMI Cluster provides researching clinicians with optimal conditions to achieve this."

"With this success achieved against extremely tough competition, tens of millions of Euros will flow to Schleswig-Holstein. The continuation of the success story in researching clinical diseases will now be transferred to specific treatments. A core component of the Cluster is conducting clinical research directly on patients. And for this we need motivated and dedicated doctors, who are given the necessary freedom to carry out clinical research," said Cluster spokesperson Professor Stefan Schreiber, Director of the Department of Internal Medicine I at USKH Kiel, and Director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University.


Photos are available to download:

 Konrad Aden 

Konrad Aden, Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces", specialist in internal medicine at the Department of Internal Medicine I at UKSH Kiel, and research associate at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB), Faculty of Medicine at Kiel University. Photo: private

 Jan Heyckendorf 

Jan Heyckendorf, Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces", Managing Consultant at the Endoscopy and Functional Department, Medical Clinic, Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center. Photo: private

 Stefan Schreiber 

Stefan Schreiber, spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces", Director of the Department of Internal Medicine I at UKSH Kiel and Director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University. Photo: UKSH

 Treatment conference

At the Comprehensive Center for Inflammation Medicine (here you can see a picture of the treatment conference at the Kiel location), interdisciplinary medical care and clinical research are united under one roof. Photo: Sascha Klahn, © Uni Kiel


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The Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) has won funding from 2019 to 2025 through the German Excellence Strategy. It succeeds the "Inflammation at Interfaces” Cluster, which had already won funding in two periods of the Excellence Initiative (2007-2018). Around 300 scientists are involved at four locations: Kiel (Kiel University, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Muthesius University), Lübeck (University of Lübeck, UKSH), Plön (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology) and Borstel (Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center). The aim is to draw on the multifaceted research approach to chronic inflammatory diseases of barrier organs, and transfer this interdisciplinarity to healthcare. Three points are important in the context of a successful treatment, and are therefore at the centre of the PMI research: the early detection of chronic inflammatory diseases, the prediction of disease progression and complications, and the prediction of the individual response to treatment.


Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces"
Scientific Office, Head: Dr habil. Susanne Holstein
Postal address: Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4, 24118 Kiel, Germany
Contact: Sonja Petermannn
Telephone: +49 (0)431 880-4850, Fax: +49 (0)431 880-4894
Twitter: I@I@medinflame

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