ELLIS Life Heidelberg

A bridge between artificial intelligence and the life sciences

The great potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for the life sciences – from basic research in biology to medical applications – has largely been neglected to date. A new research unit aims to support AI research in the life sciences and to forge international links with the activities in Heidelberg. The unit is part of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS). ELLIS Life Heidelberg was founded by researchers from the German Cancer Research Center, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and the University of Heidelberg and will initially be funded by the founding institutions for five years.

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Biosafety at the DKFZ

Daily work routine of our more than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ for the most part takes place in laboratories with different safety levels. Biological safety levels (at DKFZ: BSL1-BSL3) are based on the risk classification of the biological (or biomedical) work carried out. Each laboratory is designed around the safety level of its research, including the laboratory equipment, the specific working practices, and the typical protective equipment worn.

The wrong track

How papillomaviruses trick the immune system

Specific antibodies protect us against viral infections – or do they not? Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) studied the immune response to papillomaviruses in mice and discovered a hitherto unknown mechanism by which the pathogens outwit the immune system: At the beginning of the infection cycle, they produce a longer version of a protein that surrounds the viral genome. The body produces antibodies against this protein, but they are not effective in fighting the pathogen.

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Wanted: Antibodies that render malaria pathogens harmless

A protective vaccination against the parasite Plasmodium falciparum and thus against the dreaded malaria tropica should ideally take effect immediately after transmission of the pathogen. However, it is precisely at this stage of the parasite infection that the body's own defence system shows clear weaknesses. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg have investigated what kind of antibodies are particularly effective here. The goal is to design future vaccines in such a way that the immune system mainly produces these highly effective antibodies. This could considerably improve the protective effect.

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New Clues from Fruit Flies about the Critical Role of Sex Hormones in Stem Cell Control

In one of the first studies addressing the role of sex hormones' impact on stem cells in the gut, scientists outline new insights showing how a steroidal sex hormone, that is structurally and functionally similar to human steroid hormones, drastically alters the way intestinal stem cells behave, ultimately affecting the overarching structure and function of this critical organ. The authors found that ecdysone, a steroid hormone produced by fruit flies, stimulates intestinal stem cell growth and causes the gut of the female fruit fly to grow in size, and induces other critical changes. The study also provides a mechanism to account for sex-specific roles for intestinal stem cells in normal gut function. Moreover, the research presents evidence that gut hormones may accelerate tumor development. The findings, reported jointly by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U), are published in the journal Nature.

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Three DKFZ researchers elected as new EMBO members

Ursula Klingmüller, Ana Martin-Villalba, and Aurelio Teleman have been admitted to the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) for their outstanding research. EMBO is an organization of more than 1,800 researchers deemed to be among the best in the world in their areas of research.

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RNA molecule identified as a growth driver in various types of cancer

A special RNA molecule ensures faster growth and stops cell ageing in many types of cancer. This was discovered by scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and partners in the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) at the University Hospital Freiburg. If this RNA is switched off, the cell no longer has sufficient building blocks for DNA synthesis and cell division is slowed down. In future, the researchers plan to investigate whether the RNA molecule is suitable as a potential target for new cancer therapies.

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New explanation found for the extreme complexity of mutations in tumor genomes

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center and the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have been studying the evolution of tumors following chemical damage. They discovered that the DNA lesions caused by the chemical are not eliminated immediately, but are passed on unrepaired over several rounds of cell division. This "lesion segregation" can drive unexpectedly complex patterns of mutations in the tumor genome, as the scientists have now published in the journal Nature.

CAR T cell therapy

Potential for considerable savings

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy is a new and in some cases highly effective form of immunotherapy to treat certain types of cancer of the blood and lymph system. This promising treatment comes at a cost, however: The manufacturers charge up to EUR 320,000 for the production of immune cells for a single patient. By determining the fixed and variable costs involved, researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) established that cellular immunotherapy could be produced at a scientific institution such as DKFZ at around a tenth of the cost.

September 17-18, 2020

International DKFZ Conference on Cancer Prevention

With the 2nd International DKFZ Conference on Cancer Prevention, we particularly want to promote cooperation with international cancer prevention experts and raise awareness of the topic of prevention in the population.

DKFZ - A Video

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