Mainz University succeeds with three funding applications for Collaborative Research Centers in the life sciences

Approval by the German Research Foundation confirms strong research in the life sciences at JGU

2 December 2022

Three funding applications for Collaborative Research Centers (CRCs) submitted by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in the current funding round of the German Research Foundation (DFG) have been successful. The new CRC 1551 "Polymer Concepts in Cellular Function" and CRC/Transregio 355 "Heterogeneity and functional specialization of regulatory T cells in distinct microenvironments" will be initially receiving financing from the DFG for the next four years. The CRC 1361 "Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability" is receiving support for the second time. The funding to be provided totals some EUR 33 million.

All three of these Collaborative Research Centers are in the life sciences sector at JGU. "The fact that these joint research projects have attracted DFG funding is evidence of the strong research carried out in that field at our university," said Professor Stefan Müller-Stach, JGU Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics. "Congratulations to the participating scientists whose outstanding research achievements have made such remarkable success possible."

Rhineland-Palatinate's Minister of Science, Clemens Hoch, added: "I am delighted that researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have again attracted essential third-party funding. These decisions of the DFG demonstrate the extraordinary value of their research efforts. I should like to congratulate all those involved on this remarkably successful outcome. A major contribution towards this result has been made by the long-term funding of the JGU research profile within the Research Initiative of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. This year alone, we have provided some EUR 20 million in additional support through the state-funded Research Initiative."

CRC 1551: Polymer Concepts in Cellular Function

Polymers are molecules made up of many, often identical building blocks, such as in plastics. Essential biological macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA and proteins, are also polymers (biopolymers). The aim of the new JGU-based Collaborative Research Center "Polymer Concepts in Cellular Function" is to investigate how the associated polymer properties of these substances influence their functioning in cells. Also participating in the project are the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, both located on the Mainz University campus, as well as the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt and the University of Stuttgart. By bringing together the disciplines of life sciences and polymer research, the scientists involved in this CRC intend to better understand how biopolymers interact on the molecular level. The German Research Foundation has agreed to provide some EUR 9.5 million to the new CRC 1551 over the next four years. Spokesperson of the CRC 1551 is Edward Lemke, Professor of Synthetic Biophysics at JGU; Dorothee Dormann, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at JGU, is deputy spokesperson.

CRC/Transregio 355: Heterogeneity and functional specialization of regulatory T cells in distinct microenvironments

The new Collaborative Research Center/Transregio (CRC/TRR) 355 "Heterogeneity and functional specialization of regulatory T cells in distinct microenvironments" is to be launched under the aegis of the Mainz University Medical Center. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a significant role in the control of immune responses. They are also integrated into the functional architecture of several body tissues. Although the various types of Tregs share some similarities, they also exhibit marked differences determined by their function. The researchers of the CRC/TRR 355 will be looking at this heterogeneity of Tregs and how this impacts on immunological and tissue-specific disorders. The objective is to use Tregs for the development of personalized immunotherapies. The CRC/TRR 355 will receive around EUR 13 million for the four years of the first funding period. The CRC spokesperson is Professor Ari Waisman, Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine at the Mainz University Medical Center. Other project partners are Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and the Technical University of Munich.

CRC 1361: Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability

The German Research Foundation has also approved a second funding period for the CRC 1361 "Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability". Under the leadership of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, this CRC addresses how cells achieve the safeguarding and faithful transmission of their genetic information. The Technical University Darmstadt, Goethe University Frankfurt, and LMU Munich are involved as cooperation partners. The CRC will receive around EUR 10.6 million over the next four years. Since 2019, scientists from structural biology, biochemistry, cell biology, toxicology, and bioinformatics have been collaborating in the CRC 1361 to investigate the mechanisms of DNA repair and their effects on cell fate. In the newly-approved second funding period, the CRC will deepen its mechanistic analyses and complement them with extended approaches in the field of systems biology to understand how defects in genome maintenance can lead to disorders such as cancer and accelerated ageing. Thus, the CRC forms an important pillar in the newly emerging focus on ageing, senescence, and longevity research in Mainz. Professor Helle Ulrich from the Institute of Molecular Biology Mainz and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is the spokesperson of the CRC 1361.

The continued funding of the CRC 1361 also represents acknowledgement of the achievements of the Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) alliance of Goethe University Frankfurt, Mainz University, and TU Darmstadt – three prestigious, research-led universities. A framework agreement signed in December 2015 extended this long-standing partnership and made the collaboration into a strategic alliance designed to promote the research undertaken by the universities, to enhance their offer of joint degree courses, and to enhance knowledge transfer and networking with society in general.