The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing four new Research Units to facilitate cross-regional, interdisciplinary cooperation among researchers. This decision was taken by the DFG Senate at its autumn meeting in Bonn. The new groups are intended to enable researchers to devote themselves to current and urgent issues within their fields and to develop new approaches.
Among other goals, the newly-established Research Units aim to develop new methods for surgical interventions on the skull, as well as to extract natural products for cancer research from myxobacteria. All four groups take an interdisciplinary approach, with one Research Unit involving international cooperation with Switzerland.
During the first funding period, the new Research Units will receive a total of 9.43 million euros over three years. Their establishment brings the total of DFG-funded Research Units to 218.
In detail, the new Research Units are as follows (listed alphabetically by coordinating university):
Impressions and treatment of the sacred in Pre-Modern Asia and Europe form the focus of the Research Unit entitled "Sakralität und Sakralisierung in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit: Interkulturelle Perspektiven in Europa und Asien" ["Sacrality and Sanctification in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period: Intercultural Perspectives in Europe and Asia"]. This Research Unit combines approaches from literary history, art history and historiography to define sacrality and how its interpretation has changed over the epochs. The group aims to analyse social forms of expression, the institutionalisation of sacrality and the interplay of individual and collective approaches in order to form detailed impressions of the different concepts of sacrality.
(Coordinator: Professor Dr. Klaus Herbers, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)
When surgical procedures require bone to be removed from the base of the skull in order to access diseased tissue, this usually causes severe trauma. Although surgeons would like to see lower-risk procedures, the planning and execution of such operations have, until now, been lacking in technical precision. The "Multi-Port-Knochenchirurgie am Beispiel der Otobasis (MUKNO)" [Multi-Port Bone Surgery using the Lateral Skull Base as an Example (MUKNO)"] Research Unit will now perform the first investigation into how miniaturising the access paths will facilitate the development of new types of surgery. This should enable operation sites and the surrounding areas to be sterilely separated using what are known as "ports". This tissue-saving procedure would considerably reduce the risk of infection and long-term consequences.
(Coordinator: Professor Dr. Jörg Schipper, Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf)
The Research Unit entitled "Erwartungen und Konditionierung als Basisprozesse der Placebo- und Nocebo-Reaktion: Von der Neurobiologie zur klinischen Anwendung" ["Expectations and Conditioning as Basic Processes of Placebo and Nocebo Reactions: From Neurobiology to Clinical Application"] aims to establish a bridge between basic research and clinical application in placebo and nocebo research. Positive and negative side effects which arise without any apparent medical reason have been recognised as clinically relevant for many years. What are, to a large extent unclear, however, are the underlying neurobiological and neuropsychological active mechanisms. The Research Unit aims to analyse these and to use the resulting knowledge of these phenomena to support therapeutic effects and reduce negative side effects.
(Coordinator: Professor Dr. Winfried Rief, Philipps University of Marburg)
Natural products play an important role in the development of active pharmaceutical ingredients and in biomedical research. They are, however, difficult to isolate and to produce in sufficient quantities. Not least, this results in gaps in the investigation of their molecular mechanisms, and their potential for pharmacology has not yet been exhausted. This is where the Research Unit entitled "Exploiting the Potential of Natural Compounds: Myxobacteria as Source for Leads, Tools, and Therapeutics in Cancer Research" comes in. This group aims to use natural products recently derived from myxobacteria to discover how malignant tumour growth can be halted, for example, or the spread of tumour cells influenced. They also intend to focus on vascular and immune cells. Their interdisciplinary approach combines chemistry, biotechnology, pharmacy and pharmacology and is intended to serve as a key to the development of natural active agents.
(Coordinator: Professor Dr. Angelika Vollmar, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)