New dean: Prof. Wittbrodt
1/10/19 The Faculty of Biosciences has found Prof. Wittbrodt willing to be the new dean of the faculty as of the first of October. His predecessor Prof. Schumacher became the new Vice-Rector Quality Development of the university. There are also two other new board members; Prof. Russell will start as the vice-dean of Research and Prof. Nickel will be the new dean of study for biochemistry.
Predicting Protein Functions using Intelligent neuronal networks
16/8/19 Researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and our Faculty here at Heidelberg University have developed an intelligent neural network that uses algorithms to predict the functions of proteins. Dominik Niopek from the IPMB and his colleagues developed a new tool called DeeProtein, an intelligent neuronal network that can predict the function of a protein based on the sequence of protein building blocks. Moreover they were able by using a trick to observe how the network makes its predictions. They applied their approach for example on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. The results of this research were published in the journal “Nature Machine Intelligence”. More info here
Young Researcher's award goes to COS postdoc
12/8/19 Philippe Golfier, a postdoc from the BBW ForWerts Graduate Program at Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) at Heidelberg University has received the award of the 'Dr. Alexander and Dr. Rosemarie Bauer Stiftung'. The foundation supports young researchers with 2800 € for a research stay abroad to advance their research and to build an international network.
Philippe Golfier received the award for his work on 'Transcriptional regulation of secondary cell walls in Miscanthus sinensis'. The project aims to understand formation of lignocellulosic biomass in Miscanthus sinensis, a fast growing energy crop, which is considered as renewable resource for the production of bio-based products and energy in the future. The components of the lignocellulosic-rich secondary cell walls are tightly regulated by transcription factors. To gain deeper insight into the regulatory properties of three transcription factors (SND1, SCM1, and MYB103), Philippe Golfier spent three months in Prof. Dr. Yujie Fu's lab at the Beijing Forestry University in Beijing, China.
The results of his research were presented at the Bachelor Graduation Ceremony at Bioquant and subsequently the award was handed to Dr. Golfier by Prof. Thomas Greb, the academic dean of the Faculty of Bioscience (see image here).
Networks of Gene Activity Control Organ Development
25/6/19 Researchers from our faculty have decoded the genetic programmes that control the development of major organs in humans and other selected mammals – rhesus monkeys, mice, rats, rabbits, and opossums – before and after birth. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, the molecular biologists at from the ZMBH from the group of Henrik Kaessmann (image) analysed the brain, heart, liver, kidney, testicles, and ovaries. Their large-scale study demonstrated, among other things, that all the organs studied exhibit fundamental and original gene activity networks that must have originated early on in mammalian evolution more than 200 million years ago. In a second large study, the scientists explored for the first time the developmental roles of a hitherto poorly understood but large category of genes, so-called RNA genes, which produce ribonucleic acids and not proteins, like “normal” genes. More info here
Thomas Rausch Named Senior Professor Distinctus
14/6/19 For his service to Heidelberg University, in particular his outstanding dedication to the strategic advancement of the university’s profile in research and transfer, Prof. Dr Thomas Rausch has been appointed Senior Professor distinctus of Ruperto Carola. “At the intersection of science and society, Thomas Rausch championed the transfer of knowledge and dialogue with the public in many ways”, stresses the Rector of the university, Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, who also praises the researcher’s contributions in conceiving and implementing initiatives associated with the Excellence Competition. Prof. Rausch is the long-time head of a research group at the Centre for Organismal Studies and one of the two directors of the Marsilius Kolleg. More info here
Karin Schumacher will be Vice-Rector Quality Development
6/6/19 From October 2019, Karin Schumacher (COS) will be Vice-Rector in the rectorate of the university. In that role she will be responsible for quality development and quality culture, as well as for the system accreditation. The Rectorate consists of two full-time members, the Rector and the Kanzler, as well as four part-time Vice-Rectors. The Rector and the Kanzler are elected to six-year terms. The Rector proposes the other four Vice-Rectors to the university Senate, who elects them to three-year terms. More info here
Successful prolongation of SFB 1158
27/05/19 The SFB (Sonderforschungsbereich) From Nociception to Chronic Pain: Structure-function Properties of Neural Pathways and Their Reorganisation, has secured a second funding period. The central question is how acute pain can transform into chronic pain and how this can be blocked or even reversed. Speaker of the SFB is Prof. Dr. Rohini Kuner, director of the Institute of Pharmacology of the medical faculty in Heidelberg. Several scientists of the faculty of Bioscience are also involved in this consortium. More info
Traffic Jam in the Cell: How Are Proteins Assigned to Specific Transporters?
9/04/19 A fundamental cellular mechanism ensures that proteins are transported to the places they are needed in the cells and vesicles are responsible for that transport. Determining their composition has been difficult up to now, not least because of their short life span. By combining innovative investigative techniques, biochemists at Heidelberg University have succeeded in analysing two of these transport vesicles – the COPI and COPII vesicles – comprehensively for the first time. Dr. Frank Adolf from the group of Prof. Wieland published the results of this research in the journal “Cell Reports”. More info here.
Launch of EU H2020 project ‘ERGO’
8/02/19 Prof. Dr. Thomas Braunbeck and Dr. Lisa Baumann of the Aquatic Ecology and Toxicology research group at the COS, just received 1.2 Mio Euro funding from the EU for two new research projects on the effects of endocrine disruptors in fish. Together with 15 international partners, they just launched their 5-year EU H2020 project "ERGO“ on new testing and screening methods to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (see https://twitter.com/ERGO_EU). Additionally, they received funding for a 2-year EU tender project to develop study protocols for testing of endocrine disrupting effects in non-mammalian vertebrates or invertebrates to improve the identification of substances disturbing the endocrine system in biotic systems, i.e. regulatory relevant endpoints for environmental hazard assessment.
Bifacial Stem Cells Produce Wood and Bast
22/01/19 So-called bifacial stem cells are responsible for one of the most critical growth processes on Earth – the formation of wood. By alternately developing into wood and bast cells, these stem cells are thus starting points for forming wood as well as generating plant bast fibres. A team of researchers under the direction of Prof. Dr. Thomas Greb, a Heisenberg Professor at our faculty, were recently able to demonstrate this phenomenon using new experimental tools. The scientists from the Centre for Organismal Studies labelled and studied specific types of cells in the growth layer of plants, the cambium. More Info
Sulfate Helps Plants Cope With Water Scarcity
21/12/18 Plants absorb the mineral sulfate from groundwater. An international research team led by scientists Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Hell and Dr. Markus Wirtz, has uncovered how sulfate controls the production of the drought stress hormone ABA in plants and thus contributes to their drought-resistance. These findings improve scientists' understanding of how the drought-stress signal travels from the roots to the leaves. The studies in Heidelberg were carried out at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). More info
Faculty member in 'highly cited research'-list
03/12/18 Prof. Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager is one of the most cited scientists in his field worldwide. For the sixth time in a row, he is on the list of "Highly Cited Researchers" from Clarivate Analytics (previously part of Thomson Reuters). In the list of "Highly Cited Researchers", Heidelberg, together with the Goethe University in Frankfurt, is the most successful university in Germany. More info
Optogenetic tool to control the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors
21/11/18 A new molecular precision tool now makes it possible to alter the genome in human cell cultures more selectively than ever before. The tool known as the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors is controlled externally using an optogenetic process. To make this process possible, anti-CRISPR proteins were genetically engineered so they could be turned on and off – with light. The tool, called CASANOVA, was developed by Dr Dominik Niopek of the IPMB / BioQuant and Prof. Dr Roland Eils of the Berlin Institute for Health Research and formerly with Ruperto Carola and the German Cancer Research Center. More info here
Two new ERC Synergy Grants
24/10/18 Both Jan Lohmann and Joachim Wittbrodt and their respective cooperation partners were able to secure an ERC Synergy Grant over the next six years.
Jan Lohmann (COS) and his colleagues Michael Boutros (DKFZ), Wolfgang Huber (EMBL) und Oliver Stegle (EMBL/DKFZ) receive a grant for their project: DECODE, Decoding Context-Dependent Genetic Networks in vivo.
Jochen Wittbrodt (COS) and his colleague Ewan Birney (EBI, Hinxton, UK) were succesfull with their proposal ‘IndiGene’ – Genetics of individuality.
ERC Synergy grants are awarded to cooperations of two to four researchers, who can explicitly show that the project they propose can only be carried out by their combined efforts. The European Research Council published a list with all 27 honoured proposals. The official press release of the University can be found here.
Plants Emit Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide at Substantial Amounts
Highly Organised Process: How Protein Complexes Form in the Cell
Precise, Highly Efficient Gene Repair
Protection For Nerve Cells Delivered Through The Nose
HEIDELTEC-team: Double success
DFG Funding For Heidelberg Collaborative Research Centres
Heidelberg University succeeded in gaining support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the latest approval round, receiving funding for three research networks. Two Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) in Heidelberg Medicine, the "Reactive Metabolites as a Cause of Diabetic Complications" CRC 1118 and the "Integrative Analysis of Pathogen Replication and Spread" CRC 1129, were both extended for a second four-year funding period. The “Maintenance and Differentiation of Stem Cells in Development and Disease” CRC 873 in the biosciences had its work approved for a third funding period. Total DFG funding for the three consortia is more than 35 million euros. Researchers from Heidelberg University are also involved in a transregional CRC with lead institution in Munich. More information
COS scientist wins FameLab competition
18/05/2018 Dr. Veli Vural Uslu wins the German national FameLab competition and secures a spot at the international final which takes place at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. FameLab is an international competition organised by the Britisch Council to promote Science Communication. In three minutes, participants have to explain a scientific topic to a general audience. Dr. Uslu is a postdoc in the group of Prof. Rüdiger Hell (COS) and his research is all about how plants sense nutrients in their environment. At the national FameLab competition in Bielefeld he focussed on the 'good viruses' that create diversity in plants as well as in animals and thereby convincing the jury of his science communication skills. See also the Famelab-website and this article in a local newspaper.
Update (20/06/2018): Dr. Veli Vural Uslu actually wins second place in the international competion in Cheltenham. To see his performance there, see this clip on Youtube
15/05/2018 A new Emmy Noether junior research group has taken up its work at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). Group leader Dr Michael Raissig and his team are studying how grasses form microscopic “breathing” pores on their leaves. The researchers hope to unravel why the grass family, which includes major food crops like rice, maize and wheat, can exchange gases with the atmosphere so efficiently, thus conserving water in the process. Over the next five years, the “Biology of Stomata” research group will receive funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) totalling approximately 1.5 million euros. More info here
26/04/2018 The intestine of many organisms must be able to renew itself to recover from environmental insults like bacterial infections. This renewal is made possible by a small number of intestinal stem cells which divide and produce daughter cells throughout their lives. The daughter cells differentiate into highly specialised gut cell types. Prof. Sylvia Erhardt and Dr. Ana García del Arco from the ZMBH have studied these processes in the fruit fly and gained new insights into the role of centromeric proteins that largely regulate cell division. The studies reveal that these proteins also play an important part in cell differentiation and tissue renewal. More information here
16/04/2018 A cleavage product of the Alzheimer's APP protein stimulates nerve cell communication and memory. The protein fragment, known as APPsα, has neuroprotective properties and acts as a signal molecule on other nerve cells. But how does it influence brain functions? An international research team led by Prof. Dr Ulrike Müller of Heidelberg University has gained new insights into the molecular mechanism underlying its physiological functions. The researchers discovered a receptor for APPsα, which paves the way for new treatment approaches for Alzheimer's. More information.
13/03/2018 Heidelberg Research in the Life Sciences and Medicine ranks first in Germany and 40th worldwide according to the latest QS world university rankings by subject. If only the Biosciences are taken into account, the University still ranks 40th worldwide and second in Germany. The QS Ranking, previously also known as the Times Higher Education Ranking, looks at several different aspects of scientific output like citation analysis, student/faculty ratios and reputation. The results are published each year. More information can be found here.
Spore "memory" links different stages of the bacterial life cycle
8/03/2018 The phenotypic memory of Bacillus subtilis spores can be visualized by tagging the enzyme alanine-dehydrogenase with a red fluorescent protein. Early forming spores contain higher levels of the enzyme than late forming spores. After the addition of the amino-acid L-alanine the early spores germinate faster and grow out. Bacterial spores store information about the individual growth history of their progenitor cells, thus retaining a "memory" that links the different stages of the bacterial life cycle. This phenomenon was demonstrated in a recent study by an interdisciplinary research team led by Dr Ilka Bischofs at the BioQuant Centre of Heidelberg University. The spore memory could give rise to various adaptive behaviours in microbes. The results of the study were published in the journal "Nature Communications". More Information
21/2/2018 The dean of our faculty Prof. Dr. Frauke Melchior, who works at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) was announced recipient of the 2018 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award on Tuesday. Prof. Melchior recieves the prize for her outstanding achievements in the life sciences but also for guiding and mentoring young researchers and her open and cooperative way of doing science. More information in the EMBO press release
Dr. Dominik Niopek did not only win the Ruprecht-Karls-Preis, he also was selected for the Klaus-Tschira KlarText Prize last October. This prize is awarded to scientists who are able to explain the subject of their thesis in a clear and entertaining way. You can find his text here. Every year the Klaus-Tschira foundation awards this prize to seven scientists from the disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, Computer Science, Mathematics, Neuroscience and Physics. The next deadline is 28.02. More information here.
DFG grants millions for lipid research and research in plant processes
The SFB/TRR 83 “Molecular Architecture and Cellular Functions of Lipid/Protein Assemblies”, a joint network in lipid research of the universities of Heidelberg, Dresden, and Bonn, will continue its work in a third funding period. After a successful evaluation, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved funds of about 10,7 million euros. Ruperto Carola has the lead role; scientists at the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center (BZH) coordinate all the cross-institute activities of the network.
The SFB 1101 "Molecular Encoding of Specificity in Plant Processes" received a second round of funding of about 12 million euros. The University of Tübingen is coordinating this SFB, but 5 professors of the Faculty of Biosciences, all from the Centre of Organismal Studies (COS), participate. More info
GBM-Prize for best master thesis
4/12/2017 On the 29th of November, ZMBH PhD candidate Roman Sakson received the GBM-Masterprize for his master thesis titled: “Establishment of an MRM Assay for the Quantification of Human Hsp90 and Its Cochaperones in Different HCC Cell Lines”. The Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie (GBM) awards this prize every year to an excellent master thesis. His master thesis in Molecular Biotechnology was carried out in cooperation between the groups of Prof. Dr. Matthias Mayer and Dr. Thomas Ruppert.
Two Faculty Members in list of ‘highly cited researchers’
21/11/2017 Both Prof. Ralf Bartenschlager as well as Prof. Karin Schumacher are ranked in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in Web of Science. Clarivate Analytics (a spin-off of Thomson Reuters) used the publications between 2005 and 2015 to calculate the scores. More info
Doctoral thesis awarded with Ruprecht Karls Prize
20/11/2017 Dr. Dominik Niopek received the Ruprecht Karls Prize for his thesis ‘Optogenetic control of Nucleocytoplasmic Protein Transport. This prize is awarded once a year by the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg to excellent young scientists who have made an extraordinary contribution to their field of science.
More info (in German)
Distant Relatives: TOR Protein Regulates Cell Growth in Plants and Animals
27/10/2017 Two such different organisms as plants and humans developed from a common precursor cell. Traces of this over one-billion-year kinship remain anchored in the genetic material of both organisms. An international team of plant researchers led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr Rüdiger Hell of Heidelberg University has looked more closely into one such trace – the TOR protein. In human and animal cells, TOR acts as a signal generator that controls both survival and cell growth. The Heidelberg researchers have now discovered how this protein also functions as a growth regulator in plants. More Info
27/10/2017 A paper by Dr. Sven Sahle (a junior group leader in the department of Prof. Kummer, COS, BioQuant) and Dr. Christoph Zimmer was awarded the 2017 IET Systems Biology Premium Award. This award is handed out each year by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to the best paper published within the last two years in one of their journals. His paper titled ‘Deterministic inference for stochastic systems using multiple shooting and a linear noise approximation for the transition probabilities’ can be found here.
14/10/2017 Many bacteria have molecular control elements, via which they can switch on and off genes. These riboswitches also open up new options in the development of antibiotics or for the detection and decomposition of environmental toxins. Prof. Dr. Andres Jäschke of the IPMB together with researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Freie Universität Berlin have now used light optical microscopy of single molecules to fundamentally study the way riboswitches work. This is reported in Nature Chemical Biology.
15/9/2017 New insights into the development of the vascular system: researchers in the team of Dr Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar of the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center have discovered a crucial biological step that regulates the formation of blood vessels. They were able to show that the proteins YAP and TAZ play an important role in this process. The new findings were published in the journal “Developmental Cell”. More Info
8/9/2017 Researchers from the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have investigated the mode of action of a molecular chaperone vital to protein synthesis. Together with colleagues from the University of Cologne and the Penn State University (USA), they were able to demonstrate that the speed of protein synthesis is associated with the function of the Ssb chaperone. The information controlling synthesis speed is stored in the genetic code of the cell, thus ensuring maximum efficiency and precision in synthesising functional proteins. The results of their research were published in “Cell”. More Info
26/7/2017 Heidelberg Delivery Technologies, HeiDelTec GmbH, a new start-up company, which has emerged from within the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology. After successful participation in the Exist-Research-Transfer Program of the BMWi, the IPMB leads basic pharmaceutical research to practical application thus setting new pulses in the area of improving bioavailability and effectiveness of drug formulations.
The founders, Dres. Silvia Pantze, Robin Tremmel, Frieder Helm and Johannes Parmentier from the group of Prof. Fricker, Dept. Pharmaceutical Technology and Biopharmacy, as well as business economist Moritz Stadler develop a technology, which allows oral administration of otherwise parenterally given drugs, e.g. peptides and proteins. These biologicals, covering a market volume of appr. 220 billion US$ p.a. have usually to be given by painful i.v. injections, and therefore alternative routes of administration are most desirable.
Novel approach to monitor functional protein complexes
Image: Isabel M. Schopp
9/06/2017 The composition of specific functional protein complexes in their cellular environment can now be analysed with unprecedented resolution. The team led by junior group leader Dr Julien Béthune at Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center has developed a new technique which allows the scientists to overcome a long-standing hurdle in molecular cell biology. The method called “split-BioID” allows them to analyse context-dependent protein complexes which could not be identified previously. Their research results were published in the journal “Nature Communications”. More Info here.
New Collaborative Research Center on a Fundamental Signaling Pathway in Development and Disease
26/05/2017 A new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) will investigate the function of a fundamental cellular signaling pathway. Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the CRC will start its work at Heidelberg University. After successful review, the DFG approved approximately 8,5 million euros in funding for the next four years. Prof. Dr Thomas Holstein of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) is the spokesperson for CRC 1324, “Mechanisms and functions of WNT signaling”. The research will focus on Wnt proteins which control the central processes of embryonic development, cell differentiation, and the development of tumours. The comprehensive interdisciplinary collaboration aims to study the molecular mechanisms for the Wnt signaling pathway which is central to biology. The CRC will begin its work in July 2017. More information here.
Young Researcher´s award goes to HBIGS doctoral student
How Plants Form Their Sugar Transport Routes
Image: Eva-Sophie Wallner
27/04/2017 In experiments on transport tissues in plants, researchers from Heidelberg University were able to identify factors of crucial importance for the formation of the plant tissue known as phloem. According to Prof. Dr Thomas Greb of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), these factors differ from all previously known factors that trigger the specification of cells. The findings of the Heidelberg researchers substantially expand our understanding of the metabolic processes in plants. Their results were published in the journal "Current Biology". More Info
ERC Grant for Bernd Bukau
7/04/2017 The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a highly endowed grant – an ERC Advanced Grant for leading researchers in Europe – to Heidelberg molecular biologist Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau. The five-year endowment will fund a research project in which the scientists will study the maturation of proteins in cells. The central question is how a cell can efficiently “fold” amino acid chains into functional proteins with a three-dimensional structure and assemble them to protein complexes. Prof. Bukau is director of the Centre for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) and at the same time does research at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). Approximately 2.1 million euros are available to fund the research work, which will start in summer 2017. More info here.
ERC Grant for Ed Hurt
7/04/2017 The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded biochemist Prof. Dr Ed Hurt a highly endowed ERC Advanced Grant for outstanding research leaders in Europe. The project on the biogenesis of ribosomes will be funded for a period of five years. The researchers in Prof. Hurt's team want to study the largely unexplored processes that take place in the initial phase of the manufacture of these cellular protein factories. The results of the research could contribute to a greater understanding of ribosomopathies – diseases caused by impaired ribosome biogenesis. The research, which is scheduled to begin in 2018, will receive ERC funding of approximately two million euros. Ed Hurt teaches and conducts research at the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center (BZH). More info here.
Taiwanese science council honors Hannah Monyer
Baden-Württemberg Foundation Funds Research Project on Protein Aggregation
22/02/17 Heidelberg molecular biologist Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau has been awarded a grant of approximately 280,000 euros from the Baden-Württemberg Foundation for a research project on the neurodegenerative disorder of Parkinson's disease. The project is a continuation of the previous work by Prof. Bukau and his team on the dissolution of protein aggregates that are responsible for a number of different diseases, including Alzheimer's. The experiments are focussed on so-called heat shock proteins (Hsp), which cells produce to counteract the aggregates. The Heidelberg University researchers expect their work to provide new insights into the origin and prevention of Parkinson's disease. The foundation is funding the project for three years as part of its "International Top Research III" programme.
Annika Guse receives ERC consolidator Grant
7/02/17 Heidelberg biologist Dr Annika Guse has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for outstanding research talents, a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The funding is earmarked for a five-year project in molecular cell biology to investigate the symbiotic relationships between cnidarians such as corals and single-celled algae. The research, which is scheduled to begin in June 2017, will receive ERC funding totalling nearly 2.3 million euros. A portion of the funds will be used to purchase major research equipment. Annika Guse teaches and conducts research at the Centre for Organismal Studies at Heidelberg University.
More info here