Press Release


HMGU coordinates two European research networks for innovative drug research

They are committed to drug research and hope to be able to exploit 'Big Data' in the future: Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München are coordinating two new European research projects. Both Innovative Training Networks* are funded by the European Commission with a total of more than 6.3 million euros in the Horizon 2020 framework programme and start in January 2016.


Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU)

The 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine was recently awarded for the development of novel therapies for widespread illnesses in less developed countries. This shows that even today efficient treatment is lacking for devastating infectious diseases that affect millions of people. These include sleeping sickness, malaria and tuberculosis, for example. The AEGIS (Accelerated Early staGe drug dIScovery) project is therefore dedicated to developing innovative bioactive compounds targeting these illnesses and to training talented researchers in this area.

The project, which has funding of 3.84 million euros, is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Michael Sattler, Director of the Institute of Structural Biology (STB) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. The project brings together eleven partners from industrial and academic research institutions in seven European countries. In addition, 16 partner organizations are participating in the project. The goal of these researchers is to exploit the three-dimensional structure of proteins to develop and apply innovative procedures for the design of small molecules that target protein interaction to eventually eliminate pathogens.

"We want to employ innovative methods in structure-based drug discovery to develop new lead compounds to fight infectious diseases such as sleeping sickness and malaria. Another main focus of AEGIS is to train the next generation of outstanding scientists in interdisciplinary drug discovery and thereby also provide a valuable contribution to future research in Europe," says coordinator Sattler.

A focus on the analysis of 'Big Data'

A further major challenge facing biomedical research today is the handling and analysis of the very large amounts of data that the researchers themselves are generating. This topic is referred to as 'Big Data' and in the future, the project BIGCHEM (Big Data in Chemistry) will deal with this topic. BIGCHEM evaluates the chemical properties and biological activities of very large chemical compound libraries that are, for example, the basis for high throughput screening approaches in pharmaceutical drug discovery. Nine renowned participants from science and industry and eight additional partner organizations are cooperating in BIGCHEM across Europe.

The project is coordinated by Dr. Igor Tetko, who is head of the STB 'Informatics & Chemical Biology' research group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. The funding of 2.5 million euros will be used to develop innovative analysis methods, which are becoming increasingly important in industrial research and applications.

"For this reason, the BIGCHEM scientists will be trained in two phases," explains Tetko. "They will spend 18 months with the academic partners, and then gain experience for another18 months in industry."

Further information

* The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, named after the double Nobel Prize winning Polish-French scientist famed for her work on radioactivity, support researchers at all stages of their careers, irrespective of nationality. Researchers working across all disciplines, from life-saving healthcare to 'blue-sky' science, are eligible for funding. The MSCA also support industrial doctorates, combining academic research study with work in companies, and other innovative training that enhances employability and career development. In addition to generous research funding, scientists have the possibility to gain experience abroad and in the private sector, and to complete their training with competences or disciplines useful for their careers.

Among the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are the Innovative Training Networks (ITN): They bring together universities, research centres and companies from different countries worldwide to train a new generation of researchers. The funding boosts scientific excellence and business innovation, and enhances researchers’ career prospects through developing their skills in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.

Find more information about the project AEGIS here.

Find more information about the project BIGCHEM here.

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,300 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.

The Institute for Structural Biology (STB) investigates the spatial structures of biological macromolecules, their molecular interactions and dynamics using integrated structural biology by combining X-ray crystallography, NMR-spectroscopy and other methods. Researchers at STB also develop NMR spectroscopy methods for these studies. The goal is to unravel the structural and molecular mechanisms underlying biological function and their impairment in disease. The structural information is used for the rational design and development of small molecular inhibitors in combination with chemical biology approaches.

Scientific contact at Helmholtz Zentrum München:
Dr. Eva Schlosser, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute for Structural Biology, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Phone: +49 89 3187 2908 -