Science and research ‘made in Germany’
As part of its research programmes, the German Federal Government provides funding for basic technologies that drive forward developments in central fields of application and thus serve to encourage growth in several sectors. Research funding provided by the German government seeks to find solutions to global challenges, increase Germany’s competitiveness and secure sustainable jobs.
Project applications are selected and approved in a competitive procedure on the basis of specific calls for applications from various Federal Ministries.
FAU receives the most funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as well as from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
Some of the most significant projects are listed and described briefly below:
The aim of the ‘Duxdrugs’ research group is to characterise and use herpes virus host interactions to develop new antiviral therapies. During this research, the group hopes to identify cellular processes that are important for viral replication and that could serve as points of attack for antiviral treatments. Special attention will be given to the DUX4 cellular transcription factor. Initial work has shown that infections with all tested herpes viruses lead to the expression of the DUX4 transcription factor and its target genes and that the activation of DUX4 is essential for replication of the virus. Herpes viruses are prominent human pathogens and can lead to serious infections and even death, especially in patients with immunodeficiency. There is therefore a great need for new anti-viral treatments for herpes.
The ‘Duxdrugs’ research group intends to characterise herpes virus DUX4 induction in detail and develop DUX4 inhibitors for antiviral therapy. In addition, the abnormal expression of DUX4 is the cause of FSHD, a type of muscular dystrophy, and is also involved in the development of many tumours. While the main focus of the project lies directly on the development of a DUX4 inhibitor and therefore also on a new anti-viral therapy for herpes, the hope is that it will be possible to use a DUX4 inhibitor in the context of FSHD and several types of tumour. The research group’s other aims include improving the understanding of the effects of DUX4 expression on the cell, as DUX4 activates a wide range of cellular genes and endogenous retroelements as a transcription factor and the function of these genes are as yet unknown. The effects of DUX4 and DUX4 target genes are to be characterised in detail and thus contribute to a better understanding of the biology of the herpes virus, embryonic development, FSHD and the development of tumours.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01KI2017, from 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2025.
The International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF) ‘Fate, Freedom and Prognostication. Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe’ is one of ten Käte Hamburger research consortia in Germany funded by the BMBF as part of an initiative to strengthen research in the humanities and international networking in this area.
A team of local researchers at FAU is supported every year by 10-12 different international visiting fellows who research how notions of individual and collective fate are viewed in the daily life and ideology of traditional, modern and present-day China (or East Asia), Medieval Europe and other cultures.
Their findings on attitudes towards fate and prognosis should give answers to the question of the place freedom takes in various cultures.
Children are at a disadvantage when being given medication, as not enough attention is paid to safety and there is often a lack of data on the effectiveness of the medicine. Medicines are often used off-label for children, placing children at a far greater risk. The aim of the KIDSafe project is to make it easier to take an evidence-based approach to treating children with medicine by introducing PaedPharm, improving the safety of pharmacotherapy in children and adolescents. The effectiveness of PaedPharm is being tested in 12 cluster regions in Germany.
The project is being funded by the Innovation Committee of the Federal Joint Committee, funding reference 01NVF16021, from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2021.
In November 2015, the funding programme ‘Medical Informatics Initiative (MI-I)’ was launched to promote IT innovations for health research and medical care. The aim is to improve patient care in Germany. The advantages of digitalisation in medicine should be used to connect data and generate medical knowledge, whilst developing and applying innovative IT solutions for an improved healthcare system based on data.
The MIRACUM Consortium (Medical Informatics in Research and Care in University Medicine) is one of the four funded consortia. The consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Prokosch, Chair of Medical Informatics, FAU.
MIRACUM is a consortium of ten universities with ten university hospitals, two universities of applied sciences and one industrial partner in seven of the states within Germany and a total funding volume of 37 million euros. The focus is creating data integration centres and integrating them into the hospital’s IT infrastructure over the coming years, with the aim of making it easier to collect and share data within the consortium.
The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months and for up to 2 years after introducing solids. Even though breast milk offers protection against serious illnesses and infections, there are some viruses that are transmitted via breast milk. This includes the human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1), a neglected retro and tumour virus that predominantly infects white blood cells (CD4+ T cells) and can lead to incurable illnesses after lifelong persistence. At least 5 to 10 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV-1, however many of them do not know they have the virus. The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids that contain cells, including blood products, seminal fluid and breast milk, which is mainly responsible for the transmission of HTLV-1 from mother to child. The risk of transmitting the virus increases with the duration of breastfeeding, but refraining from breastfeeding is not an option in countries where resources are limited or within under-represented ethnic groups such as ethnic minorities. Although our understanding of how the virus is transmitted from cell to cell on a molecular level continues to improve, it remains unclear which cells in which organs are infected first via breast milk, how these cells are infected and how breast milk influences the infection of these cells. Furthermore, the development of prevention strategies that still allow breastfeeding, above all in economically underdeveloped regions, is urgently required. We intend to take an experiment-based approach to tackling these questions. For this purpose, we will use various tissue culture models and develop HTLV-1 specific single-domain antibodies t that can be used in therapy. Our central aim is to develop prevention strategies that ultimately allow infants to gain from the benefits of breastfeeding without being exposed to an increased risk of HTLV-1 transmission.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01KI2023, from 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2025.
Applications for sensors, such as smartwatches and fitness apps, are becoming increasingly common in our day-to-day lives due to modern technology. These applications offer new opportunities for prenatal care, where the heart rate, blood pressure and other measurements can be carried out at home. This raises the question of whether these measurements could be transferred to smart home applications and thus provide valid results thereby reducing the number of unnecessary hospital visits.
The focus of this project is the clinical usability, acceptance by society, compliance by the stakeholders involved and the development of this sensor technology in a domestic setting and the associated ethical and legal implications.
The fundamental idea of the project is to optimise and simplify prenatal care for pregnant women by transferring proven and innovative sensor systems into a home care setting and analysing the results using artificial intelligence and machine learning. In this project, potential direct applications for implementing smart sensors will be created that will optimise the provision of healthcare by physicians and also enable pregnant women to check their results themselves and optimise their metabolic activity. Pregnant women and their partners who are open to the use of modern digital media such as smartphones and smartwatches to monitor their health are the target group of the project.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number ZMVI1-2519DAT400, from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2022.
Software Campus is a training programme from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, tailored for managers in the IT sector. It is aimed at students studying for a Master’s degree and doctoral candidates in computer science from Germany and abroad, who have demonstrated outstanding academic success and an innovative entrepreneurial spirit. Within the framework of the programme, Master’s students or doctoral candidates can develop and manage their own IT idea as part of a project together with an industrial partner. BMBF has provided funding of up to 100,000 euros for the project for a maximum of two years. Those participating in the programme have the opportunity to attend special training courses aimed at improving their methodological and management skills, as well as other valuable soft skills.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01IS17045, from 1 November 2017 to 31 October 2023.