Being Faster in the Fight against Infectious Diseases

Left to right: Dr. Brunhilde Seidel-Kwem (UKJ), Prof. Dr. Walter Rosenthal (FSU Jena), Prof. Dr. Axel A. Brakhage (Leibniz HKI), Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp (Leibniz IPHT; source: L. IPHT)

The new Leibniz Center for Photonics in Infection Research (LPI) in Jena has started on July 1, 2020 – parallel to the establishment of its administrative structures – with specific projects for research into light-based technologies for the diagnosis and therapy of infectious diseases. “The corona pandemic shows us how urgently we need new approaches in the fight against infectious diseases. Here in Jena, the LPI is creating a research infrastructure that is unique in Europe for international scientists to jointly research such solutions and bring them quickly to market,” said Jürgen Popp, scientific director of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technologies IPHT and spokesman of the new research center on the occasion of the signing of the cooperation agreement for the LPI on June 17, 2020 in Jena.

The center which is to be funded by the federal government with 124 million euros, is supported by four Jena partners: the Friedrich Schiller University, the University Hospital, the IPHT and the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz HKI). The official construction phase for the new center, with the laying of the foundation stone on the grounds of the University Hospital, will begin in January 2021, and from 2026 the Center will be open to top researchers from all over the world.

“We are currently experiencing how rapidly a pandemic can spread in our globalized world. So rapid that there is hardly any time to act appropriately,“ emphasized Popp. Another threat is the spread of multiresistant germs. “Every day, two thousand people die from the consequences of bacteria against which no antibiotics are effective. Infectious diseases are among the most frequent causes of death worldwide. We need good ideas, unconventional approaches and solutions that quickly get from the laboratory to the hospital bed.”

The Leibniz Center for Photonics in Infection Research will provide a foundation for this in the future. With short distances and clear transfer points to market maturity, the aim is to support international researchers from the natural sciences, technology development and medicine as well as users from industry in the rapid implementation of innovative methods. In September 2019, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research put LPI on the national roadmap for future-oriented research infrastructures.

“The LPI offers the possibility of linking diagnostics and therapy,” said Michael Bauer, director of the Clinic for Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital Jena. “We want to be pioneers for approaches that we believe will determine the medical agenda of the next ten to twenty years, for example with the research of biological therapeutics,” added Axel Brakhage, director of the Leibniz HKI.

The new center will enrich Jena as a research location – and vice versa, emphasized university president Walter Rosenthal: “The LPI could revolutionize the diagnostics of pathogens, the science council judged,” said Rosenthal. “It is no coincidence that this is happening in Jena. The combination of photonic technologies, basic research and clinical application shows the strengths of the location. University, non-university research institutions and industry are well networked here and make the location attractive for highly qualified scientists from all over the world.” (Source: L. IPHT)

Link: Leibniz-Zentrum für Photonik in der Infektionsforschung LPI, Jena, Germany

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