Home Research Networking Projekte gefördert durch die Leibniz Gemeinschaft

Projects funded by the Leibniz Association

Leibniz institutes join forces in Leibniz Research Alliances and Research networks to work on topics of high scientific and societal relevance across the boarders of disciplines. The DRFZ is a partner in several of these networks.

In addition, the Leibniz Association funds research projects that can be competitively applied for by Leibniz institutes. Several of these Leibniz Competition projects are running at the DRFZ.

Since 2016, the DRFZ is coordinating the Leibniz ScienceCampus Chronic Inflammation, an interdisciplinary  network with several departments of the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Plack Institute for Infection Biology.

DRFZ in the Leibniz Research Networks

Immune-Mediated Diseases

Founded in 2017 as an initiative of the DRFZ and the ScienceCampus, the Leibniz Network “Immune-mediated Diseases” aims to investigate the social, economic and biomedical challenges of immune-mediated diseases. 16 institutes, initially in sections C (life sciences), D (mathematics, natural sciences, engineering) and E (environmental science), have joined forces to achieve synergies in the research and therapeutic translation of immune-mediated diseases. The network acts as a communicative exchange forum of the Leibniz partner institutes in order to foster science and further develop technical and methodological competencies on the topic.

After successfully organizing two International Symposia in 2018 and 2019, the planned PostDoc workshop, which should take place 2020 on site in Berlin had to be postponed due to the corona pandemic and take place in 2021 as a virtual meeting.

Contact at the DRFZ

Andreas Radbruch, Elke Luger


Mathematical Modelling and Simulation (MMS)

Socially relevant topics such as climate change, energy and health issues challenge the international research community to develop interdisciplinary and integrated approaches combining natural, life and social sciences. High information and data volumes as well as the growing importance of simulation and optimization of technological and social processes create the need for adequate and up-to-date methods for analysis and information generation. As a connecting element, modern methods of mathematical modelling and simulation (short: MMS) have proven to be a fundamental resource. For instance, they enable reliable extraction of information from large data sets, avoidance of expensive experiments, the prediction of experiments, the analysis of stochastic events and the shortening of development cycles. The main objective of this network of 32 Leibniz Institutes of all sections is to systematically use this potential for synergies. To make the most sustainable and effective use of hard- and software resources, questions of the most suitable, fastest and most error-resistant methods are discussed.

contact at the DRFZ

Kevin Thurley



Green Nutrition - Healthy Society

Global food systems are the cornerstone of human and planetary health. The world population is estimated growing to 10 billion people by 2050. In order to supply the global population continuously with a healthy diet and at the same time preserving the livelihood of future generations, a timely and fundamental change in the global food system is necessary.

Under the present conditions of climatic and social changes and consequences, the transformation towards a healthy and sustainable food system requires cross-disciplinary solution strategies. The Leibniz Network Green Nutrition – Healthy Society comprises expertise from the areas of healthy nutrition, health, biodiversity, environment, climate change, food production and sustainable development as well as their social relevance. For us, a green diet is a physiologically optimized nutrition provided by resource-saving and sustainable food production, processing and distribution.

In addition to scientific exchange, the members of the network aim at identifying specific research needs on current issues in the field of healthy and sustainable nutrition; initiating interdisciplinary cooperation, far-sightedly promoting of young talent and careers; and establishing active exchange with political actors and regular transfer of knowledge in politics and the public.



Bioactive Compounds and Biotechnology

Biologically active substances are the basis of most drugs. The aim of this research alliance with 16 institutes is to track down biological active substances, to investigate their effects and finally to use them therapeutically.
The focus is on

  • Collection of organisms and biological materials as potential sources for new active substances
  • Isolation, analysis and chemical modification of active substances
  • Research into potential applications for biological agents:
    – for example as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or with other therapeutic effects
    – Application in health products, nutrition and agriculture

Contact at the DRFZ

Mir-Farzin Mashreghi


Healthy Aging (until 2020)

Research Alliance
„Healthy Ageing“

Healthy ageing – living an active life as long as possible free from disease and physical impairment – is an achievable goal for most elderly people in industrialised societies. 

The aim of this research alliance is to investigate the biological and social factors of the ageing process and its effects. From this, new intervention strategies will be developed to promote healthy ageing in a sustainable way. The network also sees itself as a competent partner for politics and media in all biomedical and socio-economic questions related to ageing and demographic change.

In the research alliance, scientists from biology, medicine, psychology, educational research, sociology, spatial planning and economics from 21 Leibniz Institutes are collaborating.

Jean Krutman, Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF), Düsseldorf, DE; Helen Morrison, Leibniz Institute on Aging (FLI), Jena, DE

PIs at the DRFZ:
Andreas Grützkau
Andreas Radbruch


Leibniz Competition
Collaborative Excellence

Identification and modulation of new immune targets in juvenile idiopathic arthritis

In this joint project, we are currently investigating the cellular hallmarks of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), the most common rheumatic disease in children. For unknown reasons, JIA spontaneously resolves in some patients, whereas in others joint inflammation persists and recurs.  A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, the identification of predictive markers of disease recurrence and the follow-up of these patient cohorts by the DRFZ Epidemiology units, will be crucial to ameliorate patient diagnosis and treatment.

Since 2020

Contact at the DRFZ

Chiara Romagnani, Tilmann Kallinich and Mir-Farzin Mashreghi


Chronic Quiescence - maintenance of hematopoiesis and immunological memory in health and latent infection, and its disruption in chronic inflammation

The project aims to investigate the molecular mechanism underlying the quiescence of
hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and memory lymphocytes in bone marrow niches. Quiescence of these cells is fundamental for hematological and immunological memory, which maintains chronic inflammatory diseases during their dormant
An international and interdisciplinary network of experts in stromal cell biology, haematology, and molecular cell biology, in particular RNA biology, will
complement the expertise of the Leibniz institutes DRFZ and Forschungszentrum Borstel. The consortium combines experimental in vivo and ex vivo approaches
to define the signals inducing, maintaining or terminating quiescence, the integration of signalling pathways in the hematopoietic and immune cells, and
the targets of signalling, which confer long-lasting quiescence.

Since 2019

Contact at the DRFZ

Friz Melchers


Epigenetic regulation of ImmuneAging: Heterochromatic DNA methylation as a regulator of T cell senescence

The functional decline of the immune system with aging (ImmuneAging) is a major burden for elderly individuals leading to multiple age-associated diseases including chronic inflammation. T lymphocytes contribute to ImmuneAging by acquiring a senescent phenotype, which seems to result from cumulative proliferation stress over the life-time of a human being.
We recently discovered a progressive,
heterochromatin-restricted loss of DNA methylation, which correlated to the proliferation history of the cells. We now hypothesize that this ‚proliferation-induced heterochromatic de-methylation‘ (PIHD) is functionally involved in the senescence process in T cells.
In this collaborative project, we want:

  • to define the molecular mechanism
    and the cellular consequences of PIHD,
  • to compare the extent of PIHD in T cells
    during healthy conditions and during disease,
  • to identify substances able to
    prevent or revert PIHD and hence, T cell

Contact at the DRFZ

Since 2018

Julia Polansky


Leibniz Junior Research Group

Prediction of T cell communication and differentiation dynamics by quantitative mathematical modeling

The mammalian immune response depends on the efficient interaction and collaboration of many, highly individual cells. Given that complexity, it is not surprising that the effects of drugs targeting cell-to-cell communication remain incompletely understood: Despite success stories of -biologic therapies’, e.g. TNF-alpha blockers in rheumatoid arthritis, only a limited number of patients show a major treatment response. Analysis of complex networks requires mathematical methods. The junior research group will apply and develop advanced mathematical modeling and data analysis techniques to investigate the regulation of immune responses, drawing on quantitative single-cell technologies (multicolor FACS, single-cell sequencing, multiplexed histology, etc.) and ample collaborative opportunities available at the DRFZ. The group will investigate the effects of perturbations, such as inhibition of cell communication pathways, on the type and strength of an immune response, and thus pave the road for optimization of targeted therapies in the future.  Dr Kevin Thurley is an outstanding candidate for heading a Leibniz Junior-research group. He worked at internationally renowned institutions, the Max-Delbrück-Center and the Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, the University of Cambridge UK, and the University of California San Francisco, and his pioneering work is documented in high-ranking scientific journals, including PNAS, Science Signaling, PLoS Biology. His core interest is elucidating biological complexity, and he has shown how stochastic intracellular calcium signals can reliably transfer information, how the mammalian circadian clock coordinates metabolic functions, and how diffusible cytokines can serve as local messengers between immune cells. With his track record of developing broad-ranging systems-biology models and quantitative data analysis methods in close collaboration with biologists, Dr Thurley is an ideal match for the scientific community at the DRFZ.

Institute: German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin (DRFZ)

Project leader: Dr. Kevin Thurley

Since 2018

Thurley lab

Transfer project

Selective depletion of plasma cells secreting pathogenic autoantibodies in chronic autoimmune diseases – a potentially curative therapeutic approach (PCdepCAD)

Using B-cell-depleting antibodies has led to promising results in the past in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. However, a drawback of these therapies is the depletion of plasma cells that secrete autoantigen-specific antibodies. The leader of the transfer project will continue to work on an affinity matrix he developed that can isolate antigen-specific plasma cells and deplete them. If this method, thought by experts to be almost impossible, succeeds, it would represent a key breakthrough in the treatment of B-cell-mediated autoimmune disease.

German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ)

Cooperating partners:
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP)

Funding period 2021

Contact at the DRFZ
Falk Hiepe

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