Stefan Legewie receives about EUR 1 million to model biological networks

Research group at the Mainz-based Institute of Molecular Biology aims to develop mathematical models that will aid research into diseases such as cancer


Dr. Stefan Legewie, leader of the Modelling of Biological Networks group at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), has been awarded EUR 1.14 million by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to investigate how intracellular signaling networks manage to function precisely in the face of constantly changing environments. The project will allow Legewie's group at IMB to develop mathematical models that will aid research into diseases such as cancer. In the past the study of how complex signaling networks function correctly in changing environments has often been purely descriptive, giving little quantitative insight. Dr. Stefan Legewie will address this problem by analyzing the robustness of biological networks using a systems biology approach. Through this, his group will produce mathematical models that quantitatively describe the dynamics of intracellular processes. These will be validated and optimized in close collaboration with a number of lab-based researchers, making this a highly interdisciplinary project.

Specific topics being investigated comprise the question of how chromosomes segregate, which is a process essential for correct cell division and genomic stability, the mechanisms underlying precise decision making in the yeast mating pathway, i.e., a pathway similar to a mammalian one that is linked to tumorigenesis as well as the aspect of how random fluctuations in gene expression give rise to molecular and cellular heterogeneity. The proposed research will thus provide insights into genomic stability and the development of cancers and will help guide future experiments in these areas.

The grant awarded to Dr. Stefan Legewie is from the "e:Bio - Innovations Competition Systems Biology" program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and is entitled "Präzision und Dynamik molekularer Netzwerke". The project is to run for a five-year period and starts in July 2012.

About the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

The Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB) is a center of excellence in the life sciences that was established in 2011 on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Research at IMB concentrates on three cutting-edge areas: epigenetics, developmental biology, and genome stability. The institute is a prime example of a successful collaboration between public authorities and a private foundation. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has dedicated EUR 100 million for a period of ten years to cover the operating costs for research at IMB, while the state of Rhineland-Palatinate provided approximately EUR 50 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art building.

About the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931-1991), a member of the shareholder family of the company Boehringer Ingelheim. With the PLUS 3 Perspectives Program and the Exploration Grants, the foundation supports independent group leaders. It also endows the internationally renowned Heinrich Wieland Prize as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists. In addition, the foundation pledged to donate EUR 100 million to finance the scientific running of the IMB at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz for ten years. In 2013, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation donated a further EUR 50 million to Mainz University.