Press releases (in German)
  • BMBF

    Federal Ministry of Education and Research

  • DESY

    Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron

Starting shot for new "Centre for Structural Systems Biology" CSSB

Federal Minister Annette Schavan, Hamburg State Minister Herlind Gundelach, and Lower Saxony Minister Johanna Wanka signed the federal and state-government agreement for the construction of CSSB.

In the future, infections researchers and physicists in Northern Germany will collaborate in the hunt for pathogens: with the scientific coordination by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, the new "Centre for Structural Systems Biology“ (CSSB) will be established at the DESY campus. The interdisciplinary centre with several universities and research facilities from Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein as partners pursues the goal to identify the attacks by pathogens with atomic resolution. On Friday, 7 January 2011, in the FLASH Hall at DESY, Federal Minister of Education and Research Professor Annette Schavan, Hamburg State Minister Dr. Herlind Gundelach, and Lower Saxony Minister of Science and Culture Professor Johanna Wanka signed the federal and state-government agreement for the construction of CSSB. It is funded with 50 million Euros in total.

"Infection research in Northern Germany has already an excellent reputation,” said Professor Dirk Heinz, acting Scientific Director of the HZI. “Now we will take better advantage of the synergies of different research fields. The CSSB will act as a beacon for our research, making it visible even across national borders”.

"Our light sources rank among the world’s best and offer optimal conditions for structural biology. With super microscopes as PETRA III and FLASH, it is possible to analyse the molecular basis of diseases with extremely high spatial and time resolution,” emphasises Professor Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors.

Pathogens are extremely small but have substantial effects on mankind. Even smaller are the tools the pathogens use to infect us: with the interaction of molecules on their surface they gain access into our body. Structural biologists decipher these interactions at an atomic level and investigate the structure of molecules and proteins. Thus, scientists do not only understand the pathogens’ interactions with their hosts. They also detect the target points for new active substances, anti-infectives and vaccines.

Systems biologists, however, investigate biological systems, i.e. cells or pathogens as a whole: which processes take place simultaneously in an organism at a given time? They collect and evaluate huge amounts of data on metabolic processes or protein interactions.

The CSSB builds a bridge between structural biology and systems biology: here, biologists, chemists, medical scientists, physicists and engineers will investigate the interaction of pathogens with their hosts. DESY offers them unique facilities in Germany: PETRA III, the best storage ring X-ray radiation source; and FLASH, the world’s only free-electron laser in the vacuum ultraviolet and the soft X-ray range. As a complement, the European XFEL is currently being built, an X-ray laser of superlatives; moreover, the „Center for Free-Electron Laser Science“ (CFEL) is coming into being at the DESY campus. These particle accelerator-based light sources produce intense short-wave radiation with special properties. Scientists get the opportunity to investigate biological samples in various ways – ranging from the structural analysis of single molecules up to real-time display of processes in living cells.

With the interdisciplinary cooperation in the new CSSB research building, it will be much easier in the future to use the ultra-modern radiation sources at DESY for biology issues. Thus, university and non-university groups will closely collaborate at DESY to investigate and better understand with the help of systems biology complex cellular processes by using the “super microscope”.

Construction planning is to start immediately after the signing of the agreement; construction start is planned in 2012.