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1 December 1999

Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke:
"This project has set new standards in neurobiology research"

Successful Long-Term Collaborative Project on "The Molecular Biology of Neural Mechanisms and Interactions" comes to a close – Siebke: One of the most forward-looking subjects in the field of biological and medical basic research – 45 million marks from the German Research Council

After 15 years in all, Sonderforschungsbereich 317 (German Research Council-funded Long-Term Collaborative Research Project No. 317, called SFB 317 in the following for convenience) "The Molecular Biology of Neural Mechanisms and Interactions" has run its course, closing with a three-day symposium in Heidelberg. On this occasion Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke concluded his appreciation of its unique value by saying: "Here new standards have been set for neurobiology research, meaning both molecular and cellular basic research in neurobiology and the investigation into the causes of disease."

The subject around which SFB 317 revolved – molecular neurobiology – is generally agreed to be one of the most forward-looking topics in biological and medical basic research, Siebke continued. He expressed his gratitude to the German Research Council for funds totalling DM 45 million, to the scientists involved in "making a success of SFB 317" and to the staff of the University's administrative sector.

The Rector went on to list the outward and visible signs of the project's success: "For many younger scientists SFB 317 has been a springboard on their way to university professorships." It was also instrumental, he said, in establishing genuine Department structures at the University, being the operative motivation for the University's new interdisciplinary centre for the neurosciences, a project not yet completed.

"With these centres as well as the Molecular Biology Centre, the Centre for Scientific Computing and the Biochemistry Centre, the University of Heidelberg has responded to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the research and teaching in these fields, something which transcends the traditional faculty boundaries." In support of his assertion the Rector pointed to the title of the concluding lecture at the symposium by Prof. Detlev Ganten: "The Neurosciences as an Engine of Interdisciplinary Research". Siebke went on to add that the SFB had also inflicted a number of losses on the University as many of its members had accepted high-ranking appointments elsewhere. But the University, he said, fully appreciated the need for an interchange of staff between the universities themselves and between universities and other research centres. "Yet I do think it worth noting that especially in this highly competitive area the German science landscape displays inequalities in the conditions for fair competition." Notwithstanding this, he concluded, staff changes keep a university young and receptive for new avenues to be explored.

Addressing the SFB members present, Siebke wished them "success in continuing on your chosen path even without the financial support of a Long-Term Project and in sustaining the neuroscience network you have built up."

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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