The DFG funded Research Training Group (RTG) Genes, Environment and Inflammation was a joint and highly interdisciplinary effort from the Kiel University and the University of Lübeck. After the maximum possible funding of nine years we finished the official work at the end of 2021, but transferred experiences and findings in current projects like for example the Research Unit RU 5042 miTarget.
Both universities are actively participating in the DFG excellence cluster "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" respectively its predecessor “Inflammation at Interfaces”. A group of scientists working together at these institutions initiated this Research Training Group. Together, they stand for expertise, innovative approaches and the belief that interdisciplinary research will be the most promising. Speaker of the RTG is Prof. Dr. Andre Franke, Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology.
Within the RTG the scientists studied the environmental influences responsible for the development of complex, chronic diseases. Moreover, they systematically examined the previously understudied interplay between the (micro-)environment and predisposing genetic factors. The research was based on a highly interdisciplinary and technology-driven approach and involved scientists from many different countries. The results will help to define novel pathophysiological trigger factors and aid the development of innovative therapeutic approaches. Much of the work was based on mouse models, as these warrant a homogeneous and controlled modification of the environment; for example, different diets can be fed and the impact on the gut microbiome and inflammatory conditions measured. Having access to patients, the RTG members validated their findings in the human model system, too. Another focus of the Research Training Group was on the gut microbiome, an organ-like system that recently received a lot of attention due to its relevance in metabolism, health and disease, and due also to the avenue that it may be modified by means of pre- and probiotics.
Doctoral researchers obtained access to a wide variety of different in vitro and in vivo methods and theoretical computational approaches such as subsequent data mining and bioinformatic analyses. Optimal infrastructures are available at the two universities in Kiel and Lübeck, not least the currently built Center of Molecular Life Sciences (“Zentrum für Molekulare Biowissenschaften”, ZMB) and the nationally unique Comprehensive Centers for Inflammation Medicine (CCIM). All junior scientists were supervised by two professors from different fields and passed a structured qualification programme also comprising basic soft skill courses. Regular meetings of all members of the group supported the exchange.
Three generations of international doctoral researchers (24 junior scientists) have successfully passed the qualification within the RTG and are now spread all over the world in academic positions like assistant professorships and postdocs at universities, researchers and product managers in industry. Seventeen doctoral researchers in medicine have been supported by a one-year's scholarship and qualification support throughout their entire studies. Some are already working as clinician scientists or medical doctors at hospitals. Additionally 26 junior scientists and 26 post-docs have been associated to the RTG and worked within the network.
Until now 112 publications in peer reviewed international journals arose from the research work of the junior scientists.