Today, the topping-out ceremony for the new building of the Research Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) was celebrated on the Desy campus at Hamburg-Bahnrenfeld. Scheduled to start operations in 2017, the CSSB will will allow to investigate bacterial and viral infections in a unique interdisciplinary approach., using new light sources at Desy and cryo-electron microscopy. Katharina Fegebank, Hamburg Minister of Science, and Kristin Alheit, her colleague from neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein, emphasised in their greetings the importance and significance of scientific co-operation in northern Germany, exemplified by CSSB.
Interdisciplinary Research for Better Protection
CSSB’s founding director Prof. Matthias Wilmanns explained: “In the research, it’s like in sports: With the combined forces of our partners at CSSB, we want to be the best and use advanced structural biology to get latest insights into the mechanisms of infectious processes. Thus, we hope to make an important contribution to better protect our society against new infections. “
“The CSSB has already been an excellent research institution. With the new building, conditions are even better. Close collaboration between many disciplines, short distances, and the Desy particle accelerator right at the doorstep”, thus Katharina Fegebank, Hamburg Minister of Science, “All these elements are important to advance infection and immunity research and contribute to strengthening the scientific reputation of the Hamburg Metropolitan Area all over the world.”
Bridging Structural and Systems Biology
At the CSSB, biologists, chemists, medical scientists, physicists and engineers will join forces to investigate the interaction of pathogens with their hosts. To this end, DESY offers them unique facilities in Germany that provide optimal conditions for structural biology. Using “super microscopes” such as PETRA III, FLASH and, in future, European XFEL, reseachers will be able to study biological samples in different ways – ranging from structural analysis of single molecules to real-time imaging of processes in living cells – and thus explore the molecular basis of diseases with extremely high spatial and temporal resolution.
New Approaches to Combat Common Diseases
At the CSSB, researchers will decipher, among others, the interaction of proteins in medically relevant infections caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. A typical research topic would be, for example, to unravel the mechanism by which the malaria parasite enters the red blood cells. This is an extremely complex process involving not only one but a variety of proteins, with many fundamental questions still to be resolved. Using DESY’s state-of-the-art light sources, the CSSB partners aim to develop new interdisciplinary approaches in the fight against common diseases caused by infections.
Nine Research Partners
The CSSB is a joint initiative of nine research partners from Northern Germany, including three universities and six research institutes. Currently under construction of the Desy campus in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld, the CSSB devotes itself to infection biology and medicine by utilising structural and molecular biology methods and imaging techniques in conjunction with systems biology approaches. It main objective is to unravel the underlying mechanisms of important pathogenic processes in order to discover more effective treatment options of bacterial and viral pathogens.