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GSC recommends funding of neurosciences research building at the Mainz University Medical Center

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Major distinction for innovative and interdisciplinary research concept

The German Science Council has recommended federal and state funding for a neurosciences research building at the Mainz University Medical Center. The central aim of the funding program is to finance the construction of buildings for scientific projects with national significance that are characterized by innovative and interdisciplinary research approaches. This decision indicates strong recognition of the researchers of the Research Unit Translational Neurosciences (FTN) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz who submitted the proposal. The approval of funding for the research building significantly enhances the already excellent reputation of the FTN, a reputation that has been secured by two Collaborative Research Centers, Research Units, a Research Training Group funded by the German Research Foundation, internationally acclaimed publications, as well as by the outstanding support it has attracted from the European Research Council (ERC). The project, which will involve the construction of a new building on the campus of the Mainz University Medical Center and the renovation of a building on the university campus, is set to begin in 2014. The sum to be invested amounts to more than EUR 40 million, half of which the federal government is to contribute through its funding program. 

The Medical Center at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is planning these construction projects in order to further concentrate the expertise of its institutes and work groups and to attract new research groups to Mainz, the aim being to ensure implementation of the FTN research program over the long term. A building belonging to the Mainz University Medical Center and located on the JGU campus is to be renovated with modern experimental facilities being established for translationally-oriented basic research in the neurosciences. A separate building will be constructed for the Neuroimaging Center on the grounds of the University Medical Center in the immediate vicinity of the participating clinics so that the results of theoretical research can be employed directly in patient-oriented clinical research.

“The recommendation by the German Science Council once more underscores the reputation and importance of Mainz as a science hub. Over just a few years, a neuroscience research unit has been established here that is now highly regarded nationally and internationally and is involved in extensive cross-border networking. I am also very pleased that the state of Rhineland-Palatinate is providing further incentives by specifically targeting outstanding fields of research through its research initiative,” said Minister of Science, Doris Ahnen.

Under its research initiative launched in 2008, the state made some EUR 64 million available to its universities in the period to 2011 – in addition to basic funding – with a further EUR 36 million to follow by the end of 2013. However, it was also clear, Ahnen continued, that top level research could not be conducted without optimal working conditions. The planned new building and the renovated building would thus make a significant contribution towards this. Ahnen highlighted the fact that the Mainz University Medical Center application for a research building in 2011 was similarly successful. At that time, the German Science Council voiced its support for the construction of the Paul Klein Center for Immune Intervention (PKZI).

“On the one hand, the funding recommendation of the German Science Council means that we have established ourselves in the top tier of German neuroscience centers. On the other hand, the construction of this new research building represents the realization of one aspect of a scientific objective that we intend to pursue over the long term,” emphasized Professor Dr. Ulrich Förstermann, Chief Scientific Officer of the University Medical Center.

The primary aim of the Translational Neurosciences Research Unit is to study the molecular and cellular interactions that allow the brain to maintain a state of equilibrium, otherwise known as homeostasis. A thorough understanding of these mechanisms would represent a major breakthrough and would make it possible to develop new strategies to enhance mental health and resilience and to find new ways of dealing with illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis. “The new research building will put in place the prerequisites that will allow us to bring the programmatic orientation of the Mainz University Medical Center, initiated a few years ago, to a new level. We see ourselves as being well-equipped to pursue top level research in the highly promising field of the neurosciences,” said Förstermann.

“These thematically-linked and coordinated construction projects will provide an additional boost to our work in the area of the neurosciences, to the Mainz University Medical Center, and thus to the Mainz science hub in general,” emphasized Professor Dr. Norbert Pfeiffer, Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the Board of the Mainz University Medical Center. “This recommendation not only represents a major achievement for the JGU Medical Center but compliments our recent success in acquiring third-party funds. It will provide additional impetus to our dynamically evolving FTN and promote the sustainable and long-term development of a neurosciences center that will have an outstanding profile internationally.”

According to Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch, coordinator of the Translational Neurosciences Research Unit established in 2010 at Mainz University, “the German Science Council’s decision is another important point of departure for all the scientists collaborating at the FTN. Our objective is to understand the development and maintenance of structural and functional homeostasis in the central nervous system and thus develop new therapeutic strategies in the hope of ultimately facilitating the transformation of theoretical findings in neuroscience into actual clinical treatments. The Mainz University Medical Center is now excellently situated with regard to this research sector.”

On completion of the construction projects, the FTN will have research facility space amounting to some 6.300 square meters at its disposal. Of this, 1.500 square meters will be provided in the new building on the campus of the Mainz University Medical Center while the renovated building on the JGU campus will provide some 4.800 square meters. Both projects are to be implemented in the period 2014-2017.

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