The aim of the Helmholtz Virtual Institute (HVI) is to develop new research structures to address complex issues concerning interactions between biomaterials and the body's own proteins. Another goal is to strengthen the networking between Freie Universität and the two Helmholtz partners. Specifically, the aim of the new HVI headed by Matthias Ballauff (HZB), Rainer Haag (Freie Universität Berlin), and Andreas Lendlein (HZG) is to investigate the interactions between proteins and polymeric biomaterials that have not yet been adequately understood and controlled.
For modern concepts of medical therapies, the use of multifunctional biomaterials is often essential because the influence of protein adsorption can change the biofunctionality of biomaterials. Examples are implant materials in the body, carriers of drugs, or materials that are in contact with body fluids outside the body, such as membranes for dialysis. The interactions between these biomaterials and the body's own proteins determine the fundamental properties and behavior of these materials. Often the body's own proteins form a solid layer on the surface of biomaterials to influence them or to initiate other biological reactions, or determine how cells stick together.
Andreas Lendlein, director of the Institute of Polymer Research in Teltow and spokesperson for the Virtual Institute is pleased with its partners. "With the establishment of the new Virtual Institute, we can investigate the exciting questions on protein–materials interactions and simultaneously create a center of excellence together with other associated national and international partners as well as partners from industry. We are placing special emphasis on training young scientists."
The three partners will work on this research in the coming years in close cooperation with other national and international partners. Associated partners of the research team are Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Harvard University in Cambridge (USA), the University of Tokyo (Japan), and Sichuan University in Chengdu (China). Industrial partners are mivenion GmbH and Fresenius Medical Care AG.
Freie Universität Berlin with its Center for International Cooperation (CIC) and Dahlem Research School (DRS) has excellent structures for international cooperation and scientific contacts as well as the concomitant training of graduate students in key skills.
Helmholtz Virtual Institutes are an instrument of the Helmholtz Association for initiating and strengthening collaboration between universities and Helmholtz Centres. They have their own executive and management structure, and over a five-year period they receive up to a maximum of 900,000 euros from the Helmholtz Association and the participating partners. The aim is to improve research at universities by establishing visible centers of excellence and to increase collaboration between universities and Helmholtz Centres. The Helmholtz Association is the largest German science organization. Helmholtz Virtual Institutes are intended to prepare the way for larger strategic research projects. Other important aims are to improve the training of young scientists and to generate new collaboration with leading international partner institutions.
Freie Universität Berlin is one of nine German universities selected in the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. Freie Universität was chosen for its future development concept called "International Network University."
In 2007 Freie Universität set up a Focus Area called "NanoScale – Functional Materials at the Nanoscale." It is a research platform for scientists from the fields of chemistry, physics, biochemistry, pharmacy, medicine, and veterinary medicine who work collaboratively on themes such as supramolecular interactions, biomembranes, hybrid materials, and nanomedicine.
The close collaboration between scientists at the Dahlem Research Campus of Freie Universität Berlin with clinical researchers at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin on the Benjamin Franklin Campus, as well as close cooperation with local non-university research institutes of the Helmholtz Association and with other institutions in the region contributes to strengthening the research location in the southwestern part of Berlin.
The Helmholtz-Zentrum für Materialien und Energie (HZB) operates and develops large-scale facilities for research with photons (synchrotron radiation) and neutrons. It is internationally competitive and has some unique experimental facilities. These facilities are used annually by more than 2500 guests from universities and other research institutions worldwide. HZB conducts materials research on topics with special requirements for large-scale facilities. Research topics include materials research for energy technologies, magnetic materials, and functional materials. HZB has approximately 1,100 employees, including about 800 on the Lise Meitner Campus in Wannsee and 300 on the Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen Campus in Adlershof.
Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Biomaterial Development (HZG) in Teltow is focused on the development of innovative, polymer-based biomaterials for medical applications that meet the complex requirements for medical applications, in particular in regenerative medicine. Special emphasis is placed on bridging basic research and the implementation of results in clinical applications. HZG takes an interdisciplinary approach and works closely with hospitals and industry. That way all the requirements for future medical products can be taken into account from the beginning of their development. With future-oriented technologies HZG thus makes a contribution to prevention research.