Strengthening the digital future of Berlin's cancer research
The doctoral program ‘CompCancer – Computational Methods in Oncology: Towards Personalized Medicine in Cancer Therapies’ has received approval from the German Research Foundation (DFG). As part of this research program, a new generation of researchers will be developing computer-based tools for use in cancer research. The new Research Training Group is headed by Prof. Dr. Nils Blüthgen of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
“Over the past few years, we have witnessed a paradigm shift within the field of cancer research,” explains Prof. Blüthgen, Head of the ‘Computational Modeling in Medicine Group’ at the Integrative Research Institute (IRI) Life Sciences, and Director of Charité’s Institute of Pathology. Until a few years ago, the analysis of tumor samples was based on visible tissue characteristics. Today, state-of-the-art high-throughput technologies enable scientists to obtain a specific cancer’s detailed molecular profile. These technologies produce vast volumes of data. “Collating and interpreting these complex data sets represents a major challenge – one which requires innovative, computer-based technologies and mathematical models. At the same time, there is a dearth of researchers undergoing the training necessary to meet these challenges.”
This is about to change. Under the auspices of the new Research Training Group, a large number of doctoral students will receive support from interdisciplinary teams made up of experts from computer science, data modeling, research and genetics. As part of their doctoral projects, they will be involved in the research and development of new computer-based technologies which are to address important questions from the field of cancer research. In addition to their research, members of the new Research Training Group will be completing a comprehensive training program with a strong emphasis on promoting international networking. Plans include a collaboration with a Research Training Group from the Netherlands, which will enable students to attend regular, jointly organized conferences. The program also benefits from regular visits by Prof. Dr. Chris Sander of the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.
The DFG will provide more than €4.5 million in funding to support the new Research Training Groups, initially for a period of four and a half years. Led by Charité (the joint medical school of Freie Universität Berlin, and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), the Research Training Group involves researchers from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. Along with 14 other newly approved Research Training Groups, the program is due to commence in June 2019.
DFG Research Training Group
Research Training Groups offer graduate students the opportunity to complete their doctorates within the framework of a structured research and training program, enabling them to gain a high level of expertise. The DFG is currently funding a total of 217 Research Training Groups. Funding support for the 15 newly approved Research Training Groups will total €71 million.
Prof. Dr. Nils Blüthgen