Inter- and transdisciplinary training across institutes along the 4Ds

The first Winter School within the Fraunhofer CIMD Young Scientists Program took place from October 5 to 8, 2021.

© Fraunhofer CIMD | Dr. Stephanie Dauth
A part of the participants of the Fraunhofer CIMD Winter School.

The Winter School was oriented around the four major topics of Fraunhofer health research - Diagnostics, Data, Drugs and Devices. During these four days, around 30 Fraunhofer PhD students and post-docs listened to numerous excellent presentations by internal and external experts, pitched their own projects, and discussed ideas and the translation of research ideas into applications in humans/patients.

The participants consisted of employees of the core institutes of the research cluster (Fraunhofer ITEM, ITMP und IZI) as well as other Fraunhofer-institutes (Fraunhofer FEP, IAP-CAN, IGB, IGD, IMM, IPA, ISC und IZI-BB).

With a welcome to the participants, the Fraunhofer CIMD central office opened the Winter School and introduced the research cluster and the goals of the Young Scientists Program in more detail. This was followed by a round of introductions of the participants in smaller groups, divided into four thematic rooms. Within these rooms, four questions (1) »What would win you a Nobel Prize?«, (2) »Who is your scientific idol and why?«, (3) »What is your dream destination and why have you never been there?« and (4) »What do you expect from this School?« were discussed.

Day 1 of the Winter School was focused on the first »D« - Diagnostics.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Oberbach, Head of CardiOmics Unit at the Fraunhofer IZI and cardiac surgeon at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, opened this day with his presentation on molecular biological diagnostic methods. In his talk, he addressed OMICS technology platforms and translation into daily clinical routine. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Natasa Stojanovic, research associate at Fraunhofer ITEM, on the topic of »Organoids«, taking a closer look at their advantages and challenges. Dr. Meike Müller, Head of the Department of Biomarker Analysis and Development at Fraunhofer ITEM, then introduced the participants to the topic of biomarker development in more detail.

The first day of the Winter School was rounded off by the online event »Animals on Mars« to get to know each other better and to strengthen collaboration and communication.

Day 2 of the Winter School was focused on the second »D« - Data.

This day started with an excursion on vaccine development by Dr. Sebastian Ulbert, Deputy Director of Fraunhofer IZI, followed by a second excursion by Dr. Agnes Vosen, Research Associate at Fraunhofer IMW, on innovation management and knowledge transfer. Afterwards, Dr. Sebastian Ginzel, Senior Data Scientist at Fraunhofer IAIS, gave an overview of artificial intelligence in biomedicine. After a short lunch break, participants gave insights into their own research projects in the form of five-minute project pitches. Prof. Dr. Lena Wiese, head of the Bioinformatics Project Group at Fraunhofer ITEM, rounded off the day with her presentation on data engineering for medical expert systems.

Day 3 of the Winter School was focused on the third »D« - Drugs.

Dr. Sheraz Gul, Head of Innovation Drug Screening & Substance Repurposing at Fraunhofer ITMP, opened this day with an excursion on the topic of drug discovery. This was followed by project pitches from the participants. After the lunch break, Prof. Dr. Thomas Thum, Director of Fraunhofer ITEM, and Dr. Claudia Ulbrich, CEO and co-founder of Cardior Pharmaceuticals GmbH, gave a detailed insight into cardiovascular diseases and highlighted the industry as well as Fraunhofer perspective. Using the lead compound of Cardior Pharmaceuticals GmbH as an example, the various preclinical and clinical development steps for a drug were also highlighted. This was followed by the last presentation of the day by Philipp Krüger, Cell Therapy Medical Manager at Novartis. In his presentation he went into more detail on CAR T-cell therapy, including the mode of action, production of CAR T-cells, problems and challenges in production and treatment, tracking of previously treated patients (registry), and optimization and further development possibilities for the future. This presentation was complemented by the Fraunhofer perspective and Fraunhofer's collaboration with industry in the field of CAR-T cell therapy and production by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Köhl, Director of Fraunhofer IZI and board member of Fraunhofer CIMD.

Day 4 of the Winter School was focused on the fourth »D« - Devices.

The fourth and last day of the Winter School started with further project pitches by the participants. Afterwards, Patricia Mattis, Business Development Manager at Fraunhofer ITEM, and Prof. Dr. Theodor Doll, Head of the Implant Systems Department at Fraunhofer ITEM, presented the topic of cochlear implants and brought along a surprise guest: Dr. Sabine Hammel. Dr. Hammel wears a cochlear implant, is an ENT physician and took over a part of the presentation on the topic for the event and reported on her own experiences. The final lecture of the Winter School was given by Martin Thoma, deputy head of the Laboratory Automation and Bioproduction Technology department at Fraunhofer IPA, where he elaborated on the topic of interdisciplinary communication between biologists and engineers and the challenges involved.

Overall, this first Winter School was a successful continuation of Fraunhofer CIMD's promotion of young scientists for networking and collaboration beyond their current projects and topics. The research cluster would like to thank all speakers for the exciting impulses and the participants for their diverse project insights and active participation.