Else Kröner Excellence Fellowships

Funding for nine physicians active in research and clinical work
Exzellenz-Stipendien: Funding for Accredited Clinician Scientists

EKFS awards nine Else Kröner Excellence Fellowships to outstanding physicians active in research and clinical work. Within the scope of a two-year leave of absence from clinical duties they receive the opportunity to significantly advance a particularly promising and profile-building research project. The funding for each of the fellowships is endowed with 330,000 euros.

The nine individual Excellence Fellowships, each of which is funded with EUR 330,000 (in alphabetical order):

PD Dr. Juan Carlos Baldermann, Center for Neurology and Psychiatry, Clinic and Polyclinic for Neurology, University Hospital Cologne
Project: Emergence and Detection of Impulsivity: Findings from transdiagnostic deep brain stimulation and multimodal imaging

Insufficient risk assessment leads to impulsivity, a fundamental characteristic of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this project Baldermann and his team combine innovative imaging techniques with deep brain stimulation to identify the underlying mechanisms of risk assessment. The findings gained are intended to be used in future to be able to detect and prevent impulsivity at an early stage.

PD Dr. David Brenner, Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Ulm
Project: Characterization of mutations in the NEK1 gene in association with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Changes in the NEK1 gene are among the most frequent genetic factors in the case of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable disease affecting the motor functions of the nervous system. What occurs with this disease is a progressive loss of motor neurons, which leads to an atrophy of the associated voluntary muscles. By studying human motor neuron cultures and brain tissue from deceased patients displaying NEK1 mutations, Dr. Brenner and his team want to decode the molecular disease mechanisms in order to be able to identify starting points for specific therapies.

Dr. Sebastian Dieter, Department of Medical Oncology, National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, Heidelberg University Hospital
Project: Study of resistance mechanisms towards Afatinib in NRG1 fusion-driven tumors and development of therapeutic approaches to overcome resistance

Malignant tumors whose growth is driven due to a gene fusion involving the NRG1 gene respond well in many cases to a targeted therapy using Afatinib. This is a compound which is otherwise utilized to treat lung cancer. What always ensues after a while, however, is that a resistance develops. The aim of the project is to decode such resistance mechanisms via a comprehensive molecular characterization and develop therapeutic strategies to break resistances.

PD Dr. Ibrahim El-Battrawy, Bergmannsheil University Hospitals, RUB Ruhr University Bochum
Project: Clinical and genetic causes of sudden cardiac death following exclusion of structural heart diseases in Germany  

The goal of the project is the establishment of improved diagnostic and therapeutic measures for patients diagnosed with having survived sudden cardiac death. El-Battrawy and his team study the type of survived sudden heart death, the demographic attributes, risk factors, diagnostic paradigms and options for therapy. Since relatives of those affected may also carry an undiscovered risk for sudden heart death, the research scientists use special genetic analyses to study hereditary factors as well.

PD Dr. Cornelius Engelmann, Charité – University Hospital Berlin; Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Clinic for Internal Medicine with emphasis on Hepatology and Gastroenterology
Project: The role of hepatocellular senescence in the progression of chronic liver diseases

Chronic liver diseases such as hepatic steatosis (“fatty liver”) frequently lead to a scarring of the liver and ultimately to a cirrhosis of the liver, which is associated with a high mortality risk. With the help of advanced experimental methods involving human samples, animal models and cell cultures, the research project studies the role of aging processes due to illnesses, so-called cellular senescence, in liver cells. It shall be investigated how they contribute to the progression of chronic liver diseases. Disease mechanisms are supposed to be better understood as a result and new therapeutic points of attack revealed towards treating liver diseases.

Dr. Daniel Erny, Institute for Neuropathology, Medical Center – University of Freiburg
Project: The role of microglia in the translational 5xFAD wildling mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease

Microglia, the so-called immune cells of the brain, are important for the brain’s function and bear significance in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. What occurs thereby is that harmful deposits are formed in the brain and more and more nerve cells die over the course of the disease. Microglia try to remove these deposits to protect the nerve cells. In previous studies Dr. Erny was able to show that microglia are considerably influenced by certain bacterial signaling substances. In this research project it is now supposed to be clarified how a natural composition of intestinal bacteria in the wildling model affects microglia and Alzheimer’s disease to enable new options for therapy.

PD Dr. Mareike Frick, Medical Clinic with emphasis on Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology, Charité – University Hospital Berlin – Campus Virchow-Klinikum
Project: Molecular and clinical characterization of long-term effects in cancer survivors

More and more people survive a cancerous disease thanks to enormous medical progress. Unfortunately, the cancer therapies often cause complications later on that remind us of a prematurely aged person. In this project the underlying molecular processes in young and middle-aged cancer survivors are supposed to be characterized and compared with clinical data. The project is thus intended to contribute toward improving the situation for cancer survivors.

PD Dr. Dipl.-Phys. Daniel Paech, Clinic for Neuroradiology, University Hospital Bonn
Project: Development and clinical translation of new imaging biomarkers for neurooncological diagnostics

The goal of this research project is an improved and earlier characterization of the types of tumor tissue in the human brain. This is supposed to be implemented via the deployment of new magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) techniques in combination with methods of analysis involving artificial intelligence. The resulting time gain for individualized patient therapies could improve the clinical possibilities for treatment in the future, and consequently the prognosis for patients with brain tumors.

Dr. Turgay Saritas, Med. Clinic 2 (Nephrology), University Medical Center - RWTH Aachen
Project: Transcription factor RelA as therapeutical starting point in the case of renal and cardiac fibrosis

Senescent cells, a phenomenon in which cells stop dividing, can accumulate as a consequence of natural aging or following cell damage in organs and accelerate the progression of organ scarring. In this project Dr. Turgay Saritas is going to study the role of the transcription factor RelA as possible initiator of senescence in renal and cardiac scarring and determine potential new therapeutic approaches toward eliminating senescent cells in the treatment of kidney and heart diseases.