Fields or subjectsInfection BiologyMolecular MedicineRegenerative SciencesAuditory SciencesEpidemiology
Graduate School: Hannover Biomedical Research School (HBRS)
HBRS is one of Germany's leading graduate schools, funded by the Excellence Initiative (Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH) and offering top-level research, education and training possibilities. Under this umbrella our five international PhD programs Infection Biology, Molecular Medicine, Regenerative Sciences, Auditory Sciences and Epidemiology provide fully-funded studentships for a three-year course.
In 2000, Medical University Hannover (MHH), one of Germany's leading medical schools, was first to establish a structured and accredited interdisciplinary PhD program in Germany. Just three years later, MHH founded the Hannover Biomedical Research School (HBRS) as an "umbrella organization" for existing and future structured postgraduate programs. HBRS currently comprises five international PhD programs - "Molecular Medicine", "Infection Biology", "Regenerative Sciences", "Auditory Sciences" and "Epidemiology", founded by the Excellence Cluster "REBIRTH" - and one DFG-funded research training group. A structured doctoral program for medical students (StrucMed) has also been successfully established as well as two associated Master programs (Biomedicine, Biochemistry).
HBRS has managed to become a highly attractive graduate school for (MD)/PhD training with a first-rate international reputation. It co-ordinates teaching and ensures excellent training in high quality research laboratories, and actively encourages integration and interdisciplinary exchange between students and young researchers from medicine, life science and since 2007 also from engineering backgrounds. HBRS fosters educational and scientific interaction between university and non-university institutions; among these the Leibniz University of Hannover, the University of Veterinary Medicine, and the non-university Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig. HBRS provides a framework for international guest lectures, soft skill courses, career workshops, summer schools and for the training of talented students for a future career in science. HBRS has developed into a "family-oriented" training facility. With the introduction of a "dual career" concept, involving rotation of positions and tandem research groups, HBRS is supporting a new model for clinical research scientists.
HBRS offers a joint curriculum for all programs. Besides a 3-year PhD project, students have to attend 300 hours of obligatory seminars, tutorials, practical courses, soft skill courses etc. Currently, there are about 300 PhD students from more than 30 different countries in all programs. HBRS is supported in the German "Excellence Initiative" since 2006, from 2012 through the Excellence Cluster REBIRTH as well as Niedersachsen Vorab program of the Volkswagenstiftung.
Research Areas of the Hannover Biomedical Research School
Research area Infection Biology and Immunology
The world of modern Infectiology has changed enormously because of the impact of HIV on Virology as well as on Immunology. In fact the development of antiviral therapies for HIV has had enormous impact on the further development of antiviral drugs in many other areas. Also, recent outbreaks of newly emerging infectious diseases such as SARS could quickly be limited and stopped from spreading further. New diagnostic tests have been developed and vaccines are already available.
The infectious disease research in the Hannover area has focused particularly on bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. But also viruses in immunocompromised patients, which play an enormous role in our clinical centre, are a focus of our research, i.e. herpes viruses, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis and HIV. Research in Infection Biology is always closely linked to the field of Immunology. Understanding the role of chemokines and cytokines, and their respective receptors in the immune system has helped in recent years in the development of new therapeutics.
All these substances have successfully helped to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory bowel disease as well as asthma and other allergic diseases. But we still need to understand how to develop the best vaccine against HIV, malaria or tuberculosis, and about the way many autoimmune processes are unleashed. We need to find out, too, how many infectious pathogens are involved in triggering various chronic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases. It will be crucial to understand the immunological and cellular mechanism of the host in order to develop new therapies for the future. The collaborative research programs in Immunology are concentrating on cytokines, their receptors and signalling as well as on the pathomechanisms of the mucosal immune systems in the lung or the intestine.
Research Area Transplantation, Tissue Engineering and Stem Cell Biology
During the past four decades, transplantation medicine has developed from experimental clinical research into a routine standard procedure for many life-threatening diseases. The challenges for the future are induction of tolerance, acceptance of the donor immune system and avoidance of graft-versus-host disease and managing associated problems of immunosuppression and infectious diseases. More recently, it has been suggested that a number of diseases such as myocardial infarction or Alzheimer's disease might be treatable with human hematopoietic stem cells. How efficient these new procedures are and which mechanisms are acting here are still matters of research. This therapeutic strategy is based on the hypothesis that cells from bone marrow can incorporate into other tissues, take on the identity of resident cells and induce local regeneration. A second potential pathway for organ regeneration is the regenerative activity of resident stem cells in different organs. Future research needs to focus on factors determining stem cell plasticity in order better to define the conditions of therapeutic protocols. Since tissue injury is an important trigger of stem cell incorporation or "homing", it will be important for the future to define types and the time-course of injury in stem cell incorporation. It is also an open question which role cytokines play for stem cell mobilization. Another area of research in the field of regenerative medicine will be to understand endogenous molecular mechanisms (intrinsic factors and milieu) which control regeneration in health, disease and aging. In addition, we need a better understanding of developmental programs of organogenesis, cell cycle regulation, malignant transformation, as well as epigenetic "re"programming.
Structured doctoral training
PhD Program "Molecular Medicine"
It is the oldest PhD program (start 2000) and it combines a broad spectrum of research in the fields of Immunology, Infection Biology, Oncology and Stem Cell Biology/ Differentiation, Cell Biology and Genetics. Students (~60: 20 per year; medical as well as life scientists) work in different departments of MHH as well as partner institutes (Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research Braunschweig). The main aim of the program is to bridge the gap between basic sciences and applied clinical aspects in research training and to foster the necessary interdisciplinary exchange. Projects cover aspects of research on infectious or inflammatory diseases (HIV, hepatitis, diabetes, asthma, atopic eczema, autoimmune diseases, artheriosclerosis, etc.), signal transduction or oncology (MAP kinases and targets, WNT signalling, telomere shortening, genetics and signalling of leukemia) and stem cell research or differentiation (hepatic differentiation of stem cells, targeting of hematopoietic stem cells - gene therapy, somite and limb patterning, etc.).
PhD program "Infection Biology"
This program is an integral part of the "Centre for Infection Biology" (ZIB). Students (~60: 20 per year, most of them life scientists) focus on how infectious agents or antigens/allergens enter the human body, and interact with cells' and organs' pathogenicity mechanisms, how early and late reactions of the host's immune system are induced and how the immune system attacks these agents (main topics in Infection, Immunology, Microbiology and Virology). Infections by pathogens cause approximately one third of all human fatalities worldwide. An ongoing emergence of new pathogens, such as HIV, SARS and the avian influenza strain H5N1, and the recurrence of diseases previously believed to be extinct, such as tuberculosis and diphtheria, meet an alarming scenario of declining rates in vaccinations as well as an increasing resistance of germs to antibiotics. Despite considerable advances in medicine, this situation calls for extensive research and new approaches to the prevention and therapy of infectious diseases. A combination of basic sciences and applied clinical aspects is taught. The PhD Program "Infection Biology" is supported by the State of Lower Saxony (Lichtenberg stipends).
PhD program "Regenerative Sciences"
The program "Regenerative Sciences" started in October 2007 in course of the Excellence Cluster "REBIRTH". Foci are Stem Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Tissue Engineering, Tumor Biology, Tolerance mechanisms and bio-materials. Students (~60: 20 per year; medical, life scientists, engineers) work in different departments of MHH and partner institutes (Leibniz University Hannover, Laser Center Hannover, Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology und Experimental Medicine, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Friedrich Löffler Institute Mariensee, Max-Planck Institute Münster). The aim is to form a bridge between basic sciences and clinics as well as the interdisciplinary intercourse. Very interesting is the integration of the bio-engineers.
PhD program "Auditory Sciences"
The PhD program "Auditory Sciences" is part of the Cluster of Excellence "Hearing4all" of MHH and University of Oldenburg.
One DFG "Graduiertenkolleg"
In addition, there is one DFG "Graduiertenkolleg": the international Research Training Group, GRK 1273 "Strategies of human pathogens to achieve acute and chronic infection" together with Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Application at Hannover Biomedical Research School
HBRS has its own common rules and regulations for PhD studies. These rules apply to all PhD programs and Research Training Groups in HBRS. All matters concerning organs, application (requirements), selection procedures, supervision, curricula and exams are defined. Therefore, PhD students can rely on these rules while performing their research at MHH.