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The German Research Foundation (DFG) has established a new Collaborative Research Center on "Nanodimensional polymer therapeutics for tumor therapy" (CRC 1066) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P). Starting in October 2013, the Collaborative Research Center will receive grants totaling approximately EUR 11 million over four years to develop a nanoparticle-based cancer therapy to combat melanoma as an immunogenic tumor model. The Mainz scientists will focus on a form of cancer immunotherapy that is specifically suitable for permanently eliminating minimal residual disease, such as hidden metastases. The new CRC is notable for its interdisciplinary approach: chemists will study the synthetic feasibility and the structure-property relationships of carrier materials, while immunologists and biomedical specialists develop models for the optimal use of such carriers - in the form of a new combination therapy for activating the body's immune response against the cancer. The coordinator of the new DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center is Professor Rudolf Zentel from the Institute of Organic Chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Assistant coordinators are Professor Stephan Grabbe from the Department of Dermatology at the Mainz University Medical Center and Professor Katharina Landfester from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. In addition, the Board of Directors will include Professor Detlef Schuppan from the Department of Internal Medicine I at the Mainz University Medical Center and Dr. Mathias Barz from the JGU Institute of Organic Chemistry as a representative of young researchers.
The combination of the expertise of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, one of the leading sites for polymer chemistry in Germany, together with the excellent research structure in the area of tumor immunotherapy at the Mainz University Medical Center, will enable the new CRC to conduct research at the broadest level. "This new Collaborative Research Center will bring together these very strong research areas to create new medical challenges for natural scientists as well as to provide medical research with a stronger natural scientific orientation," said the coordinator of the CRC, Professor Rudolf Zentel. "Researchers from the field of chemistry, alongside immunologists and biomedical specialists, will develop novel, multifunctional, nanodimensional therapeutic agents with the aim of releasing agents and combinations of agents in as cell-specific a way as possible, and to also make it possible to make very sensitive agents, such as RNA, therapeutically usable. In an intensively interdisciplinary process, we will combine innovative therapeutic approaches from immunology and oncology with the synthesis of a broad array of well-characterized, suitably functional polymeric nanoparticles with clear physicochemical characterization in the biological environment."
For the chemists, the challenge is to synthesize well-defined polymeric carrier systems and to modify them, render them functional, and to load them with suitable therapeutic agents. Building on these initial synthetic steps, the scientists will go on to test these carrier systems in cross-sectional projects with respect to their interactions in extracellular media, cellular uptake, and distribution in the body. "Our biomedical specialists will then test these systems in combined tumor immunotherapy based on the targeted induction of inflammation in the tumor, stimulation of the immune response, and neutralization of tumor tolerance," said Professor Stephan Grabbe, Director of the Department of Dermatology at the Mainz University Medical Center.
"This Collaborative Research Center is the fruit of decades of excellent research achievements by Mainz scientists in chemistry and medicine and demonstrates the success of building profiles and specialties in science and research at our university," said the President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Georg Krausch. Mainz has distinguished itself through its many years of successful activity in the field of polymer research and its current work in CRC 625: From single molecules to nanoscale structured materials, Mainz has become renowned for its great expertise in creating and characterizing the physicochemical nature of nanoparticular systems. This makes it possible to create narrowly distributed functional polymer structures and to investigate their aggregate formation in a biological context. In addition, the new CRC will benefit from extensive expertise in the organic chemistry of natural substances, concentrated in the Center for the Synthesis of Natural Products, which is funded by the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, BASF and Boehringer Ingelheim and which contributes to the knowledge of linkers and identification structures as well as a radiopharmaceutical division with outstanding chemical processing options, for example in the field of labeling chemistry and in vivo imaging using PET at the JGU Institute of Nuclear Chemistry. The Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research is also a competent partner for the synthesis and characterization of polymeric carriers.
The Mainz University Medical Center has established a specialty area in immunology with experience in immunotherapy as well as a Center for Translational Oncology (TRON) in combination with new spin-off firms, such as GANYMED, which can supply anti-tumor antibodies. Overall, there is a longstanding tradition of basic research in tumor immunology at the Mainz University Medical Center with the development of new concepts in tumor immunotherapy, culminating in clinical trials focused on melanoma, for example, in Collaborative Research Center 432, which concentrates on tumor immunology and experimental therapy. In addition, the Center for Natural Sciences and Medicine, headed by Professor Stephan Grabbe, has encouraged similar kinds of collaboration between medicine and the natural sciences at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz for more than 30 years.
"The new Collaborative Research Center shows that it makes sense to encourage the development of strong network structures in Mainz and the region. The concept of the CRC is promising because initial successes, specifically in melanoma treatment, have demonstrated that this treatment concept may contribute to making it possible in the future to successfully treat cancers that are now incurable," emphasized Professor Förstermann, Chief Scientific Officer of the Mainz University Medical Center.
About Universität Mainz
With about 37,000 students from about 130 nations, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is one of the ten largest universities in Germany. As the only comprehensive university in Rhineland-Palatinate, JGU combines almost all academic disciplines under one roof, including the Mainz University Medical Center, the School of Music, and the Mainz Academy of Arts. This is a unique feature in the German academic landscape. With its 147 subjects, 127 Bachelor's and 103 Master's degree programs, JGU offers an extraordinarily broad range of courses. Some 4,150 academics, including 540 professors, teach and conduct research in JGU's more than 150 departments, institutes, and clinics (as of December 1, 2011; financed by federal and third-party funding).
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is a globally renowned research institution of national and international recognition. This reputation comes thanks its outstanding individual researchers as well as extraordinary research achievements in the field of particle and hadron physics, materials sciences, earth system sciences, translational medicine, the life sciences, media disciplines, and historical cultural studies.
JGU’s scientific prowess has been affirmed by its success in the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments to promote top-level research at German universities: Mainz University is one of 23 universities in Germany that have received approval for a so-called Cluster of Excellence as well as approval for a Graduate School of Excellence. The Cluster of Excellence on "Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter" (PRISMA), which is primarily a collaboration between particle and hadron physicists, and the Graduate School of Excellence "MAterials Science IN MainZ" (MAINZ) are considered among the elite research groups worldwide. These two projects will receive financing to the tune of EUR 50 million by 2017.
The university's good positions in national and international rankings and the award of numerous research prizes are further confirmation of the importance and success of the research being conducted by JGU-based academics. This success has been made possible in part through the unique large-scale research equipment available at Mainz University, such as the TRIGA light water research reactor and the MAMI electron accelerator, which both attract researchers from around the world. The research-oriented teaching – with targeted and early integration of research content into the curriculum – is another key element of the JGU philosophy.
JGU is the sole German university of this size to combine almost all institutes on one campus, while also housing four partner research institutions that conduct cutting-edge research outside the organizational structure of the university itself. There are also on-campus student dormitories and childcare facilities. The clinical and clinical/theory institutes of the Mainz University Medical Center are located within roughly one kilometer of the campus.
JGU lives the notion of a civic university being an integral part of society and collaborating with the community it is part of. This means that it also provides lifelong learning programs and promotes timely and comprehensive knowledge and technology transfer.
Founded in 1477 during the age of Gutenberg and reopened after a 150-year break in 1946 by the French forces then based in Germany, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz owes much to the man whose name it bears and his achievements. With his achievements in mind, the university strives to promote and implement innovative ideas, to help improve people’s living conditions through knowledge, to facilitate their access to education and science, and to encourage people to transcend the many restraints that they encounter on a daily basis.
This is the mission that Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has set itself.
For more information, please click here
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Rudolf Zentel
Institut für Organische Chemie
+49 6131 39-20361
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