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Freie Universität Berlin in German Excellence Competition

New Proposals for Cluster of Excellence and Graduate Schools

№ 58/2011 from Mar 02, 2011

Freie Universität Berlin performed very well in the preliminary round of the third phase of the German federal and state Excellence Initiative. As announced by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (WR) after a joint meeting in Bonn, one preliminary proposal for a cluster of excellence and two for graduate schools submitted by Freie Universität alone or jointly with another university, have been approved for submission of complete proposals in the final phase of the national excellence competition. They were selected from among 98 proposals for graduate schools and 107 for clusters of excellence that had been submitted by 65 German universities.

The researchers responsible for the approved preliminary proposals have been invited to submit complete proposals by September 1 of this year. On that date applications are also due for extension of the funding approved in the first two phases in 2006 and 2007. Freie Universität currently has a total of nine research clusters and graduate schools approved then, in addition to the university's future development strategy called "International Network University" approved in 2007. On June 15, 2012, the final decisions of the German Excellence Initiative will be made with regard to the clusters of excellence, graduate schools, and strategy for future development, including which universities are granted excellence status.

The DFG and WR invited complete proposals for a new Cluster of Excellence:

  • GenoRare Cluster of Excellence – Medical Genomics of Rare Disease, a project submitted by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the joint medical school operated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin, which aims to conduct research into rare diseases.

The DFG and WR have also invited complete proposals from Freie Universität for two graduate schools:

  • Graduate School for East Asian Studies, which aims to take a look at far-reaching change in the region, and
  • BSIO Graduate School – Berlin School of Integrative Oncology, a project submitted by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the joint medical school operated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin, which aims to research new strategies against cancer.

The president of Freie Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, was pleased with the results. He said that the preliminary decision of the joint commission confirms the extraordinary diversity of the strong points of Freie Universität Berlin. It is evident that the implementation of the future development concept of Freie Universität selected in the national excellence competition in 2007 has created ideal conditions for the establishment of new transdisciplinary projects. Alt pointed out that in the German Excellence Initiative in 2007, Freie Universität Berlin had the most successful applications of all German universities. "The university currently operates two of its own excellence clusters and four graduate schools and is also involved in two clusters and several graduate schools with other universities. We are very excited about the new proposals that have now passed the first hurdle, and we are hoping for the continuation of the institutional strategy and the other existing projects."


GenoRare Excellence Cluster – Medical Genomics of Rare Disease
Berlin Consortium for the Study of Rare Diseases

Paradoxically, rare diseases occur quite often. A disease is considered rare if it occurs in less than one in 2,000 individuals. Since this is true for very many of the known diseases, there are very many of those affected. In Germany alone, four million people suffer from a rare disease, and in the European Union it is around 30 million. For example, there are more than 300 different forms of dwarfism, each with different causes, and therefore each must be treated differently. In general, rare diseases attract little attention both in medical care and research. Now a group of scientists in Berlin plans to focus more research on rare diseases. Through genome analysis, GenoRare plans to identify the causes of rare diseases in individual patients. Identifying the underlying causes is the prerequisite for a correct diagnosis as well as for the development of new targeted therapies. The consortium consists of an interdisciplinary team of experts from the fields of clinical medicine, genetics, bioinformatics, and systems biology, as well as pharmacy. The collaborating institutions are Charité, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and Freie Universität Berlin, as well as the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, the Berlin Institute for Systems Biology, and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology.


Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Mundlos
Institute for Medical Genetics, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 2846-0601


Graduate School of East Asian Studies
Taking a Look at Far-reaching Change in the Region

East Asia is currently undergoing far-reaching political, social, economic, and cultural change, without precedent in the history of the region. Freie Universität Berlin aims to contribute to investigating these changes by setting up a Graduate School for East Asian Studies. The graduate school, by integrating regional studies with the relevant disciplines, especially social sciences, aims to advance the development of East Asian Studies in Germany and Europe and expand knowledge of this important world region. The graduate school aims to provide excellent education in the East Asia-related subjects (Japanese, Korean Studies, Sinology) associated with the mediation of broad regional expertise as well as a good foundation in methodologies in relevant disciplines like history and political sciences, law, economics, social anthropology, and cultural studies.  An important part of the program will be an intensive training period in East Asia.


Prof. Dr. Verena Blechinger-Talcott
Japanese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-57104

BSIO Graduate School  – Berlin School of Integrative Oncology
Strategies against Cancer

With around 1.45 million people in Germany already afflicted and 450,000 new diagnoses per year, cancer represents a major medical and social challenge. The study of cancer, its molecular basis, and new therapies is thus a prominent research focus of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the jointly operated medical school of Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In the BSIO planning group, 25 researchers from the fields of hematology, oncology, genetics, biochemistry, surgery, radiology, computer science, the humanities, and social sciences are working together to form a particularly closely integrated education for prospective molecular oncologists and young physicians interested in cancer research. Such a comprehensive approach to training outstanding young scientists from the beginning of their research career is the basis for interdisciplinary research capable of responding to the challenge of "cancer" and to develop effective strategies for addressing this challenge as quickly as possible.


Prof. Dr. Clemens A. Schmitt
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, MKFZ – Molecular Cancer Research Center
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 450553896


Applications for continued funding will be submitted for the institutional future development strategy approved in 2007 as well as all the clusters of excellence and graduate schools approved in 2006 und 2007.

Further Information    

Please direct requests for interviews or images and other queries to:

Goran Krstin, Press Spokesperson for the President of Freie Universität Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-73106