Researchers from Freie Universität’s Department of Biology, Chemistry, and Pharmacy and the Department of Physics will work together in the Supramolecular Functional Architectures at Biointerfaces (SupraFAB) project. The designated spokespersons are the physicist Prof. Dr. Stephanie Reich and the chemist Prof. Dr. Rainer Haag, who have been jointly directing the NanoScale Focus Area at Freie Universität since 2009. The supramolecular architectures at biological interfaces to be investigated in the project play a key functional role in living systems, for example, in the interaction of drugs with protein complexes in the cell membrane or the interaction of pathogens with cell surfaces. The research of the 110 involved scientists aimed to achieve a better understanding of the function of neuronal communication at the molecular level as well as the interactions between pathogens and cell surfaces as a basis for developing new diagnostic and therapeutic concepts. The researchers combine physicochemical model systems with reconstituted fully defined biological systems. The work requires close interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists in the fields of experimental biology, chemistry, pharmacy, and physics as well as theoretical research groups. The scientists work together in four Collaborative Research Centers based at Freie Universität Berlin and the Cluster of Excellence Neurocure at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the medical school operated jointly by Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität. The cooperation partners include numerous regional non-university research institutes, in particular the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Center Berlin, the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology, the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, and top international universities, including Harvard University and the University of Tokyo.
Plans are being made to construct the SupraFAB research building between 2016 and 2020 on Taku Street in Dahlem – at the heart of the science buildings on the campus of Freie Universität – and connect it to the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry via a bridge. Highly specialized laboratories will be set up with clean rooms and low-vibration, precisely air-conditioned measuring rooms. Currently Freie Universität does not have these specialized facilities and equipment. Of particular importance is the large-scale equipment included in the proposal: it would provide access to super-resolution microscopy methods and novel combinations of time-resolved imaging and spectroscopic methods. These pioneering methods will be supplemented by interface analytical methods and equipment for nanostructured surfaces. The building grants will be distributed over a five-year period. In 2016 the universities will receive 10 percent of the total, the following year 20 percent, the third year 30 percent, 25 percent during the fourth year, and 15 percent during the fifth year.
The Research Building Committee of the German Science Council judged the 14 proposals according to five criteria: objectives of the project and the significance of the proposed building and major equipment for the implementation of the research objectives; quality of the research agenda; quality of the research up to now; national significance; and the incorporation of the project in the university. The committee consists of representatives of the federal and state governments and 16 scientists from different disciplines. The Science Council advises the German Federal Government and the state governments with regard to the content of and the structural development of higher education, science, and research.