UniversityHelmholtz Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience Founded

21 June 2023

Berlin Max Delbrück Center and Heidelberg University merge vascular biomedicine, systems biology and cardiac research

The Berlin Max Delbrück Center and Heidelberg University are together founding the Helmholtz Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience (HI-TAC). The decision was made by the Senate of the Helmholtz Association and announced today, on Wednesday (21 June 2023). The new institute, based in Mannheim and Heidelberg, will merge vascular biomedicine, systems biology and cardiac research. The founding director is Prof. Dr Hellmut Augustin. The implementation phase of the HI-TAC will start in July this year.

Rendering des geplanten HI-TAC-Gebäudes am Standort Mannheim

“HI-TAC is linked to our two large university hospitals and will forge a close research alliance between Berlin, Heidelberg and Mannheim. Heidelberg University’s research portfolio with its longstanding cardiovascular expertise and the Max Delbrück Center’s focus on basic research into system-wide diseases and technology development complement each other perfectly,” says Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University. “We are convinced that this joint venture will be a success story reaching far beyond the region and with international visibility.” In the words of Prof. Dr Maike Sander, Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center, “systems biology approaches are central to the research program at the Max Delbrück Center. Our goal is to detect pathologies earlier to intervene before organ damage occurs as opposed to treating disease when there is already irreversible damage. We are developing new concepts and aim to develop clinical applications quickly. To achieve this, we are bringing together basic science, clinical expertise and biotechnology.” The amalgamation of the expertise from the Mannheim-Heidelberg and Berlin regions through HI-TAC “will create the critical mass necessary to accelerate translation of our findings into clinical applications”.

The Helmholtz Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience devotes itself to the interplay of vessels and the heart. Blood vessels extend over a length of about 150,000 kilometres and form a widely ramified network, reaching the most remote parts of the body. Almost every cell is at most 150 micrometres away from the finest mesh of capillaries. The capillaries do not only supply tissue with oxygen and nutrients. The lining of the blood vessels, the endothelium, collects, blocks or strengthens quite different signals in the respective environment. The vessels and heart form a communication centre exchanging information with all other organs. In order to explore the complex communication signals, the Berlin Max Delbrück Center and Heidelberg University are going to combine their skills in vascular and heart research at the HI-TAC, and also in systems biology. The scientists involved want to focus on how findings about communication within the cardiovascular system and at the interfaces to the nervous system, immune system and metabolism can be used so that our organs remain healthy throughout our lives and we can stay healthy as we grow older.

Founding director Hellmut Augustin underlines that analysing how cells in the cardiovascular system communicate with other organs holds great potential for identifying novel prognostically and therapeutically relevant molecular targets. “The integrative systems medicine approach of HI-TAC will contribute significantly to covering the entire value chain from the discovery of new preventive and therapeutic targets to their validation, all the way to clinical translation,” says Prof. Augustin, who directs the Department of Vascular Biology and Tumor Angiogenesis at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University and the Division of Vascular Oncology and Metastasis at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.

The partners of the new institute include the Medical Faculty Mannheim-based European Center for AngioScience, Cardiology and Experimental Cardiology at Heidelberg University Hospital, the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). After a build-up phase, the annual budget is to amount to 5.5 million euros from 2028. The Helmholtz Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience will be financed by the Helmholtz Association, the Max Delbrück Center, the State of Baden-Württemberg and Heidelberg University. The state will finance a new six-storey building for HI-TAC at the Mannheim location. The planned Cardiometabolicum at the Heidelberg location will house a unit integrated into the new institute. Coworking spaces will be available for the exchange between Heidelberg, Mannheim and Berlin.

Voices on HI-TAC

“The research conducted at HI-TAC has the potential to uncover knowledge for better health into old age. The State of Baden-Württemberg, together with the participating institutions in Mannheim and Heidelberg, has granted considerable resources to support local cardiovascular research. Furthermore, HI-TAC and its association with the Max Delbrück Center will strengthen both Berlin and Heidelberg/Mannheim as centers of science. We will establish a working environment that facilitates interdisciplinary research at HI-TAC, made concrete through a new research building in Mannheim and new research spaces in Heidelberg.”
Petra Olschowski, Minister of Science, Research and the Arts in Baden-Württemberg

“With the Institute for Translational AngioCardioScience, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and Heidelberg University are taking a major step forward in a critical area of future medicine. The combined knowledge of both partners in vascular research and systems biology will help to effectively prevent vascular diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies.”
Prof. Dr Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association

“Merging the individual strengths of the disciplines concerned will make HI-TAC a driving force of translation, including the early development of possible new medications, and thereby improve systemic health. In future, we want to stop the pathogenic signals arising in the heart and vessels, in order to prevent damage to other organs.”
Prof. Dr Johannes Backs, Spokesperson of the Heidelberg/Mannheim DZHK location and Director of the Institute of Experimental Cardiology at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University

“The research approach of HI-TAC is based on the finding of researchers from the two Medical Faculties of Heidelberg University together with the Max Delbrück Center that the cells of the blood vessels and the heart actively control health and disease development.”
Prof. Dr Sergij Goerdt, Dean of the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University

“HI-TAC will usher in a new era of cardiovascular research in Germany and will make essential contributions to early disease detection and the promotion of health in older age.”
Prof. Dr Hans-Georg Kräusslich, Dean of the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University