Public Release:  DFG establishes 12 new collaborative research centers

Topics range from natural resources in ancient cultures and the modern period to carbon capture, energy conversion and tumor treatment / 94 million euros for first funding period

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This news release is available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is to establish 12 new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs). This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its spring session in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of 94 million euros for an initial period of three years and nine months. There will also be a 20% programme allowance for indirect project costs.

The new CRCs cover a wide range of topics, including the sociocultural importance of oil, metals, food and other natural resources in ancient cultures and modern society; pathogenic fungi and the infections they cause and the elementary stages of energy conversion in materials. Other CRCs will study the scientific principles for new carbon capture technologies and new approaches to the treatment of tumours.

Three of the 12 new networks are CRC/Transregios, spread across multiple research sites. The Grants Committee also approved the extension of 20 existing CRCs for an additional funding period. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 232 Collaborative Research Centres as of October 2013.

In addition to its funding decisions, the Grants Committee also discussed the basic financial framework. In view of the increasing number of funding proposals, particularly for individual grants, the DFG believes it is necessary to strike a balance between its funding programmes without jeopardising the effectiveness of individual programmes and projects. The committee therefore accepted a proposal by chairperson and DFG President Peter Strohschneider, who put forward two financial measures: a moratorium on additional proposals during the course of existing CRCs until the end of 2014 and a three-month reduction in the initial funding period for all new CRCs approved up to and including May 2014. The financial resources freed up by these measures between now and the end of 2014, amounting to approximately 35 million euros, will be set aside for the individual grants programme.

The new Collaborative Research Centres
(in alphabetical order by host university)

In spite of the growing use of renewable energies, our dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and gas will continue in the future. To protect our environment, it is essential to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This can be done with the help of carbon capture and storage techniques such as burning oxy-fuel. This is one of the most promising carbon capture technologies. Instead of air, the fuel is burned with a mixture of oxygen and flue gases. The CRC/Transregio Oxyflame - Development of Methods and Models to Describe the Reaction of Solid Fuels in an Oxy-fuel Atmosphere aims to study this technology in detail.

(Host University: RWTH Aachen University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Reinhold Kneer; Also Participating: University of Bochum, Technical University of Darmstadt)

The CRC Nanocarriers: Architecture, Transport, and Topical Application of Drugs for Therapeutic Use will focus on the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases using nanocarriers - nanoscale carrier systems that deliver drugs where they are needed. Drug absorption is important to effective topical therapy, i.e. local external therapy, as it ensures the most efficient concentration while reducing systemic effects. The aim of the CRC is to optimise nanoscopic carrier systems and concepts in topical therapy as a whole.

(Host University: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Eckart Rühl; Also Participating: Charité Berlin, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht: Institute of Polymer Research, Teltow)

The CRC Synaptic Micronetworks in Health and Disease is concerned with neuroscience. Its aim is to analyse the physiological and pathophysiological characteristics and function of synaptic micronetworks, the networks that build the complex characteristics of the brain. We do not yet understand how the different cellular and synaptic elements of such a neuronal network interact. The participating institutions in Bonn and in Israel intend to compare micronetworks in a healthy organism with the situation in neuronal diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

(Host University: University of Bonn, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heinz Beck; Also Participating: Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Bonn, Center of Advanced European Studies and Research (caesar), Bonn, Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel)

B cells are a fundamental component of the immune system and play a major role in the treatment of many autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. The CRC/Transregio B Cells: Immunity and Autoimmunity will focus on B cell activation, B-cell-induced antibody responses and their dysregulation in autoimmune diseases. In this way, the team will seek to improve our fundamental understanding of autoimmune diseases. In an ideal scenario this could lead to improved treatment and vaccinations. The CRC will use a combination of basic research, for example in mouse models, and studies of human patients.

(Host University: University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Lars Nitschke; Also Participating: University of Freiburg, Charité Berlin, University of Göttingen, German Rheumatism Research Centre (DRFZ), Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin)

Fats and fatty acids are a group of lipids whose important but somewhat 'inactive' function as components of cell membranes has been understood for a long time. However, it only recently became clear that lipids also play an active role as signal molecules for inter- and intracellular communication and an important role in inflammation, pain and the development and progress of diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes and cancer. The CRC Signalling by Fatty Acid Derivatives and Sphingolipids in Health and Disease will seek to understand lipid-mediated signal networks from a molecular and cellular level to a systematic level in the control of organ function and the organism as a whole. The individual components of these signal pathways present promising drug target structures, which means that new findings could be used to develop new treatments.

(Host University: Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Josef M. Pfeilschifter; Also Participating: Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Bad Nauheim)

The CRC Atomic Scale Control of Energy Conversion is concerned with energy conversion in complex materials. The team will seek to improve our microscopic understanding of the elementary stages of energy conversion in materials with adjustable stimuli and interactions. The researchers intend to analyse the individual stages of energy conversion with the help of models, testing new approaches to the influence and control of energy transitions.

(Host University: University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christian Jooss; Also Participating: Technical University of Clausthal, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen)

The importance of fungal infections has long been underestimated. They are in fact one of the most common causes of death in the industrialised world today. The strong rise in serious diseases involving pathogenic fungi over the last two decades and the lack of effective treatments makes the research area of the CRC/Transregio Pathogenic Fungi and Their Human Host: Networks of Interaction (FungiNet) both topical and essential. Using the example of the yeast Candida albicans and the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, the research team intends to study infection processes in order to develop new anti-infective strategies.

(Host University: University of Jena, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Axel Brakhage; Also Participating: University of Würzburg, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology e.V., Hans Knöll Institute (HKI), Jena)

The interactions between the surface biosphere and the role of organisms in lower soil layers are as yet poorly understood. The new CRC AquaDiva: Understanding the Links between Surface and Subsurface Biogeospheres intends to counter this research deficit. It will concentrate on the critical zone that begins below the root-filled soil layer. The research team will study both water (Aqua) and biodiversity (Diva) in order to find out what organisms live there and how they interact with their environment.

(Host University: University of Jena, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Kirsten Küsel; Also Participating: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Institute of Photonic Technology, Jena, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena)

The CRC Nanodimensional Polymer Treatments for Tumour Therapy will seek to develop tumour treatments based on nanoparticles. The research team will focus on tumour immunotherapy, as this appears to be particularly suitable for permanently eliminating minimal residual disease such as hidden metastasis. The CRC will approach the topic from two angles. The chemists will handle synthetic feasibility and the structure-property relationships of the carrier materials. Their colleagues in biomedicine will develop ways of making optimum use of these new carriers for combination therapy to activate the immune system against the tumour.

(Host University: University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rudolf Zentel; Also Participating: Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz)

In modern material sciences and their technical applications, the internal interfaces between solid bodies play an essential role, for example in semiconductor construction components. The CRC Structure and Dynamics of Buried Interfaces intends to gain a microscopic understanding of the structure and dynamics of the hidden interfaces inside materials. The importance of buried interfaces will increase, particularly in relation to hybrid materials of organic and inorganic substances. These hybrid materials are used to make new kinds of solar cells and other electronic components, for example.

(Host University: University of Marburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrich Höfer; Also Participating: Donostia International Physics Center, San Sebastián, Spain)

The CRC Chromatin Dynamics will study the basic principles of the dynamic structural properties of chromatin, the main component of chromosomes. The research team will study the mechanisms that give chromatin its flexibility and ability to take on different forms, as well as the necessary plasticity to react to signals from the metabolism, the environment and development processes. Until recently it was assumed that the DNA compacted into proteins - the chromatin - spend most of its time in stable states in the cell nucleus. New findings, however, indicate a much greater degree of dynamism. This is the point at which the basic research work of the CRC will begin.

(Host University: LMU Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Burkhard Becker; Also Participating: Helmholtz Zentrum Munich (German Research Center for Environmental Health), German Research Center for Environmental Health, Oberschleissheim, Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Planegg)

What role do resources play in the dynamics of human communities? Given the finite availability of natural resources such as crude oil, metals and food, this is a vitally important question which is debated not only at social, economic and political level, but also in archaeological disciplines. The CRC ResourcesCultures. Sociocultural Dynamics and Resources will attempt to link the understanding of ancient cultures of the resources available to them with current debate. The researchers in this team hypothesise that resources do not generally occur on their own but as part of 'resource complexes', combinations of things, people, knowledge and practices.

(Host University: University of Tübingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Bartelheim; Also Participating: Curt-Engelhorn-Centre Archaeometry, Mannheim, State Office for Cultural Heritage, Konstanz)

###

Further Information

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the Collaborative Research Centres.

DFG programme contact:

Dr. Klaus Wehrberger, Head of Research Centres Division
Tel. +49 228 885-2355, Klaus.Wehrberger@dfg.de

More information about the funding programme and funded Collaborative Research Centres is available at: http://www.dfg.de/sfb/en/

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.