Bridge-building between clinic and research

Three Else Kröner Clinician Scientist Professorships 2023 awarded, each endowed with 1.1 million euros
Philipp Schommers carrying out an experiment in labs at the University of Cologne

Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, December 6, 2023 – Optimal compatibility of patient care and research: The foundation Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) is awarding three Else Kröner Clinician Scientist Professorships. This is the fifth time in a row. Each of the professorships is endowed with 1.1 million euros over a maximum of ten years – provided that a positive interim evaluation occurs after five years. One application per faculty was admissible.

Improving application-related and patient-oriented medical research requires that physicians link clinical practice and research with one another in a capacity as so-called Clinician Scientists. A career in the Clinician Scientist profession still has only limited appeal due to the lack of suitable employment posts once existing Clinician Scientist programs have been concluded. Since 2019 EKFS has announced an annual call for applications for three Else Kröner Clinician Scientist Professorships.

“They provide medical doctors who have displayed outstanding achievements in patient care and research with the long-term possibility to utilize half of their working hours for research, and the other half for instruction and patient care,” explains Prof. Dr. Michael Madeja, Chairman of the Management Board at EKFS. In the course of a multistage selection process, out of 19 applications the following three applicants were chosen.

Natascha Köstlin-Gille and her colleague Stefanie Dietz at work
Natascha Köstlin-Gille and her colleague Stefanie Dietz at work

Perinatal Immunology: PD Dr. Natascha Köstlin-Gille, Department of Neonatology, University Hospital Heidelberg
In Germany, one in 12 infants is born prematurely, 10% of these infants are born before the 32nd week of gestation. Prematurity is the second-most common cause of child mortality during the first five years and one of the main reasons for lifelong disabilities. Both the occurrence of prematurity itself and the emergence of complications in premature infants are in many cases closely related to an inadequate response from the immune system. Dr. Natascha Köstlin-Gille and her research group are investigating the distinctive characteristics of the immune system and its interaction with the microbiome during pregnancy and the neonatal period. To this end she combines basic immunological analyses with modern high-throughput methods, systems biology approaches and clinical research. The aim of the “Perinatal Immunology” professorship is to develop preventive and therapeutic approaches toward immunological/inflammatory complications during the perinatal period, and thus prevent early-phase impairments, control priming processes on an individualized basis, and improve long-term health.

Philipp Schommers carrying out an experiment in labs at the University of Cologne
Philipp Schommers carrying out an experiment in labs at the University of Cologne

Accelerating the Development and Practical Application of Anti-Infective Antibodies: PD Dr. Dr. Philipp Schommers, Department I of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Cologne
Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have revolutionized the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer in the last two decades. Lately, an increasing number of mAbs are also being developed which are directly targeted against viruses and bacteria. These anti-infective mAbs have unique attributes that make them promising agents for novel treatment and prevention strategies against a broad spectrum of viruses and bacteria. However, physicians often lack experience with this new class of drugs, which hampers a broader clinical application. Moreover, there is an urgent need for new antibodies that combat an even broader spectrum of pathogens, are able to prevent resistances, and prove to be safe and effective in clinical trials. Philipp Schommers is therefore pursuing the following approaches within the scope of the project. The promotion of clinical competence in dealing with anti-infective mAbs through comprehensive training and mentoring programs. The identification of vulnerable targets on the surface of bacteria and viruses in order to be able to attack them using new antibodies. In addition, Dr. Schommers is planning to set up a clinical trial platform to rapidly test new mAb-based therapeutic strategies on patients.

PD Dr. Jonas Schupp
PD Dr. Jonas Schupp

Translational Precision Medicine for Chronic Lung Diseases: Dr. Jonas C. Schupp, Dept. of Pneumology and Infectiology, Hannover Medical School (MHH)
Within the scope of projects funded by EKFS Dr. Jonas C. Schupp and his team are researching chronic lung diseases, especially interstitial lung diseases, as well as chronic lung transplant graft dysfunction. The aim of his research is to develop precise treatment approaches, i.e. new therapies precisely tailored to patients’ needs. To accomplish this, modern technologies such as single cell RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics are used to characterize aberrant cell populations and gene expression patterns at the single cell level in a spatial tissue context. The development and validation of biomarker panels for early detection, prognosis assessment and personalized therapy ensue based on this. He ultimately aims to attain the development and preclinical validation of new cell-type-specific therapeutic approaches.

Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) – Advancing research. Helping people.
Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the funding and advancement of medical research and the support of humanitarian projects. To date the foundation has funded around 2,400 projects. With an annual funding volume currently amounting to over 60 million euros it is the largest foundation in Germany that actively funds and supports medicine. You can find more information at:

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