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12 December 2003

Two New Long-Term Collaborative Research Projects and a New "Transregional" Project at the University of Heidelberg

Additional 20 million euros for the University in the next four years—Hommelhoff: "Major success in the highly competitive research project programme of the German Research Council"

Two new long-term collaborative research projects (SFBs) and a transregional variety—all testimonies to the quality of a university—have been approved by the German Research Council for the University of Heidelberg. They will commence on 1 January 2004. "With a total of 12 collaborative and transregional research projects in the sciences, medicine and the humanities, the University of Heidelberg is one of the leading universities in all Germany," said Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff in an enthusiastic response to the news. The approval for these projects will bring the University additional research funds to the tune of just under 20 million euros in the next four years. "With public funding at an ebb, this major success for the University of Heidelberg in the German Research Council's keenly contested SFB programme is all the more gratifying and important," said Hommelhoff.

How do we learn and how does the brain function in different pathological disorders?
How do we learn and how does the brain function in different pathological disorders? This issue is investigated by the researchers from molecular and genetic neurobiology, experimental psychology and biological psychiatry cooperating in the new Heidelberg long-term collaborative research project "Learning, Memory and Brain Plasticity: Implications for Psychopathology". Other institutes involved are the German Cancer Research Centre and the Max Planck Institute of Medical Research. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop new therapeutic approaches from an improved understanding of learning mechanisms.
(Spokeswoman: Prof. Dr. Herta Flor, Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, University of Heidelberg. Phone: 0621/1703918, )

Preventing Virus Proliferation
Also new is the project "The Dynamics of Macro-Molecular Complexes in Biosynthetic Transport". It is devoted to central issues in molecular cell biology. How do proteins and their precursor molecules get from their original location in the cell to the places where they are needed? How is this transport regulated and what molecules are involved in it? Viruses exploit cell functions for their proliferation. They are thus a suitable model for studying transport processes within the cell. The ultimate aim of this project is to contribute to the identification of generalisable cell-biological functions and make it possible to prevent virus proliferation.
(Spokesman: Prof. Dr. Felix Wieland, University of Heidelberg. Phone: 06221/544150 )

What role do lipid rafts play in illnesses like Alzheimer's disease?
Membrane micro-domains known as lipid rafts are arrangements of lipids and proteins in biological membranes. They play a pivotal role in numerous biological processes, notably in the transport of substances between cells and in the transmission of signals. They are involved in growth, the differentiation of cells and immune recognition. The new transregional research project "Membrane Micro-Domains and their Role in Human Diseases" is located at the Universities of Regensburg, Dresden and Heidelberg. Its aim is to identify central aspects of the molecular cell biology of membrane micro-domains. This knowledge will then be used to study the role of lipid rafts in human illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease.
(Local spokesman: Dr. Tobias Hartmann, Molecular Biology Centre, University of Heidelberg. Phone: 06221/546844
Chief spokesman: Prof. Dr. Gerd Schmitz, University of Regensburg. Phone: 0941/9446201)

Long-term collaborative research projects (SFBs) are time-limited (usually 12 years) and subject to strict monitoring. They are designed to support the conduct of high-power research ventures at universities. The scientists involved can cooperate with non-university research institutions and industrial companies.

Conventional projects of this kind are restricted to one university, thus enhancing its research profile. The transregional project variety is applied for by a number of universities (usually 2 or 3) acting in concert. Projects of this kind are designed to encourage the development of a research sector requiring cooperation between a number of universities whose expertise is pooled at a high level of scientific competence.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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