The German Center for Lung Research, founded in 2011, can look back on five years of successful research in the fight against lung diseases. Airway diseases in Germany and throughout the world rank among the most serious health problems and most frequent causes of death. The aim of the research association is thus to improve the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of lung diseases.

The leading university and non-university research institutions in the field of airway diseases joined forces five years ago to found the German Center for Lung Research (DZL). The network has the common goal to push forward translational lung research, to move research results quickly and efficiently into clinical use. A total of eight disease fields fall within the focus of the DZL: asthma and allergies, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, pulmonary disease and adult respiratory distress syndrome, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, lung cancer and end-stage lung diseases. More than 220 scientists and their working groups from 24 research institutions at five sites are cooperating to develop new approaches for patients.

Lung diseases are increasing worldwide. Loss of quality of life and lifetime for those affected clearly indicates the great need for new solutions. „The treatment spectrum for lung diseases, compared to other diseases, is unfortunately rather meager. I am proud that, since founding the DZL, a substantial contribution could be made to improve this unsatisfactory situation“, said Professor Werner Seeger, Chairman of the Board and Director of the DZL site Gießen/Marburg/Bad Nauheim.

Positive assessment

In the past five years, the DZL has experienced a rapid development and achieved significant research success. In 2015, an international review committee rated the Center and its research activities as „excellent“. The reviewers praised the enormous progress that has been made and the substantial success of the DZL. A „worldwide leading powerhouse of researchers, equipment, cohorts and collaborations“ has been successfully established. „In the DZL, we have been able to create important structures for a translational research network. This is made up of a well characterized patient registry combined with a strong bio- and imaging database and the establishment of a common data management“, explained Professor Tobias Welte, Director of the DZL site in Hannover. The networking and exchange of technologies and methods were particularly applauded by the reviewers. „Thanks to the remarkable cooperativeness of the clinical research in the DZL, we have succeeded in enrolling a large number of study patients in our registry and examining common and rare lung diseases in detail. The interdisciplinary cooperation between clinicians and basic researchers allows us to view lung diseases from different perspectives and to make translational research possible“, said Professor Klaus F. Rabe, Director of the DZL sites Borstel/Großhansdorf/ Kiel/Lübeck.

Numerous research successes

„In the past five years, we have been able to contribute to improving and expanding the spectrum of treatment possibilities in each of the eight disease areas studied“, said Seeger. DZL scientists have, with SB10 for example, succeeded in developing a novel drug to treat allergic asthma and tested it favorably. The drug paves the way towards a novel therapeutic principle that should help to control airway inflammation occurring in allergic asthma and thus attenuate the course of the disease. With approximately 300 million people affected, it is one of the most common diseases worldwide. About 50 percent of patients suffer from allergic asthma.

„In the field of the rare lung disease cystic fibrosis too, the DZL has already made a vast amount of progress“, emphasized Professor Marcus A. Mall, Director of the DZL site Heidelberg. „DZL scientists have made a substantial contribution to the Germany-wide introduction of newborn screening for cystic fibrosis, one of the most common life-threatening hereditary diseases mostly affecting children and young adults. Using magnetic resonance tomography, they also developed a sensitive testing procedure of non-invasive and radiation-free diagnosis of early lung damage in this disease. In addition, DZL researchers are carrying out the first study worldwide on the effectiveness of a preventive inhalation therapy for infants with cystic fibrosis“, explained Mall.

DZL researchers have also played a leading role in the development of a new medication for pulmonary hypertension, leading to international registration. Pulmonary hypertension is a serious, progressive and life-threatening disease of the lung and heart. The newly developed drug riociguat will be used to treat two life-threatening forms of pulmonary hypertension. For one of these two forms, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, the drug from Germany is the very first drug therapy to become available. The innovative drug can provide considerable improvement to those affected by this serious disease.

These are just a few of the many translational research successes achieved within the DZL in the past five years.

A glimpse into the future

„We perform our research for the good of the patients. From the start, the Lung Information Service has been an important partner, informing patients clearly and independently about research results. It is also crucial that the DZL involves patients and their concerns more strongly in future“, said Professor Oliver Eickelberg, Director of the DZL site Munich.
„Strengthened by the very good results from the first five years of the DZL, we can face the future challenges in the fight against lung diseases with confidence“, Seeger summed up.
 

Further information:

The German Center for Lung Research (DZL) is a network funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and German federal states. The five sites of the DZL are Borstel/Lübeck/Kiel/Großhansdorf (Airway Research Center North, ARCN), Gießen/Marburg/Bad Nauheim (Universities of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center, UGMLC), Hannover (Biomedical Research in Endstage and Obstructive Lung Disease, BREATH), Heidelberg (Translational Lung Research Center, TLRC) and Munich (Comprehensive Pneumology Center Munich, CPC-M). The headquarters are in Gießen. The DZL cooperates closely with the Lung Information Service (http://www.lungeninformationsdienst.de).

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05.06.2019
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