Functional Genome Analysis  (B070)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 580
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.




Summary of Scientific Activities

     Functional Tumour Analyses
       - Pancreatic Cancer
       - Other Tumour Entities

     Transcript Studies
       - microRNA Studies
       - mRNA Studies

       - Antibody & Protein Microarrays
       - Liquid Biopsy Applications
     DNA / RNA Technologies
     Molecular Epidemiology
     Synthetic Biology
       - Mirror-Image Biology
       - Protein Engineering

     DNA & RNA Methylation
       - Common Cancer Marker
       - Pancreatic Cancer Progression

      How to Find Us
      Group Members
         - A Typical Day …

      Publications / Patents




Research at the division focuses on the realisation and regulation of cellular function, with an emphasis on pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has currently the worst prognosis of all solid tumours and will soon be the second most frequent cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. Only very limited therapeutic options and basically no means for early diagnosis exist; mortality is close to incidence and patients usually survive only few months after diagnosis.
We study various molecular aspects such as the activating effect on gene expression of hypermethylation in gene promoters by increasing the binding of some transcription factors, and activities at the level of coding and non-coding RNAs. Concomitantly, protein functions and interactions are investigated, mostly by means of affinity-based assays. All this is complemented with in vitro and in vivo functional studies for the elucidation of relevant cellular mechanisms. Besides creating basic scientific knowledge, we aim at establishing means for reliable, potentially early and non-invasive molecular diagnosis, accurate prognosis, patient stratification and treatment monitoring as well as the identification of novel therapeutic modalities.
Particularly promising developments are ongoing in the field of proteome analysis. We have established affinity-based processes of a robustness and reproducibility that meet the requirements of clinical applications and are amendable to translation. One scientific goal is mapping the protein-mediated communication between the different cell types of the pancreatic tumour microenvironment. We also look for disease-specific protein isoforms as structural variation is often an indicator for functional differences.
Other recent work was based on a detailed follow-up of results from genome-wide CRISPR-Cas mediated gene knockout and related over-expression experiments with PDAC cells of different matastastic potential.
Separate from the above, we have been working at the in vitro implementation of fully synthetic, orthogonal biological processes using enantiomeric biological molecules (Synthetic Biology). Motivation is their utilisation for the production of biomedically active molecules, which are non-degradable enzymatically and non-immunogenic, and the establishment of artificial, fully synthetic molecular systems. Cell-free biosynthetic production will be crucial for mastering many biotechnological and pharmacochemical challenges. Artificial biological systems will complement Systems Biology by evaluating biological models experimentally. Similar to physics, insight into cellular function will be gained by an iterative process of performing experimental and theoretical studies. Eventually, this may lead to the establishment of a fully synthetic self-replicating system and, ultimately, an archetypical model of a cell.
Many projects are pursued in national and international collaborations and programmes. Apart from publications in scientific journals, the division filed a substantial number of patents, of which several have been licensed out or are being utilised in ongoing collaborations with commercial partners. Also, several companies have been spun-off, which utilise some of the results at a commercial level.

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