Horizon 2020: EUR 1.8 million for Mainz researchers

EU research and innovation framework program will fund three research projects at the Mainz University Medical Center

15 November 2017

The University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) will be receiving a total of EUR 1.8 million in the new round of  the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework program for research and innovation. With its fund of EUR 80 billion, Horizon 2020 is the largest financial support program for research and innovation in the world. The Mainz University Medical Center was successful in obtaining support through two of the seven funding lines. The DynaMORE project being coordinated by Professor Raffael Kalisch of the German Center for Resilience Research (Deutsches Resilienz Zentrum, DRZ) at the Mainz University Medical Center attracted funding through the Personalised Medicine line. The aim of the DynaMORE project is to create personalized computer models that can be used to determine and enhance psychological resilience in individuals. The nTRACK and InnovaConcrete projects, in which the Mainz University Medical Center is participating, will be receiving funds through the Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Biotechnology and Production line. The nTRACK researchers look at stem cell therapeutics equipped with nanocarriers and how it can be used in the regeneration of muscle tissue. InnovaConcrete focuses on developing a material that can be used to prevent damage to important cultural heritage sites made of concrete.

The DynaMORE project, coordinated by Professor Raffael Kalisch of the German Center for Resilience Research at the Mainz University Medical Center, aims at developing personalized computer models of resilience, i.e., the psychological capacity to overcome challenges, for individuals who are in difficult stages of their lives or who have suffered trauma. The models employ information on each individual to learn which susceptibilities and protective mechanisms the person has and to determine how intense or robust these are. Based on this, the idea is then to use a specially developed smartphone app to provide personalized recommendations and training sessions to help improve resilience.

"Our development of such models will help improve our understanding of resilience mechanisms. The next step will involve developing a tool that can be used to enhance psychological resilience. What we aim to achieve in the end is a clinical decision-making aid," explained Kalisch. The project will run for 60 months and receive EUR 6 million in support. Of this, EUR 1 million will go to the Mainz University Medical Center. The other partners in the DynaMORE project include the universities of Berlin, Freiburg, Leuven, Nijmegen, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, and Zurich as well as the Belgian-Dutch research center IMEC.

Researchers in the nTRACK project will be looking at how stem cell therapy can be used for the regeneration of muscle tissue. The Leitat Technological Center in Barcelona is coordinating the project, in which Professor Volker Mailänder, head of work groups at the Research Center for Immunotherapy (FZI) and the BiomaTiCS–Biomaterials, Tissues and Cells in Science Research Unit at JGU, is involved. The central aim is to develop methods of incorporating stem cells in damaged tissue, such as muscle tissue, so that these can repair it. In this connection, it is important to ensure that stem cells survive and continue to become incorporated in the damaged tissue during the first hours and days following transplantation.

"In the nTRACK project, we plan to use unique nanoparticle combinations that can be used as contrast media during imaging procedures so that we can observe the reactions of stem cells in tissue during this critical time window. This will make it possible to detect whether a stem cell transplantation was successful or not. Our ultimate goal is to be able to determine ways to adjust dosage or identify specially bred stem cells that will guarantee the best possible therapeutic outcome for patients," explained Professor Volker Mailänder. The nTRACK project will run for 48 months and will receive about EUR 7 million in funding of which EUR 630,000 will go to the Mainz University Medical Center. Participating in the project are partners from Spain, Israel, Greece, the Netherlands, and UK in addition to other German partners. Some of the partners are university-based, others are commercial organizations or various government research facilities located in a number of European countries.

The third supported project is InnovaConcrete, in which researchers aim to develop a self-repairing material that can be used to help prevent damage to cultural heritage monuments made of concrete. The project is being coordinated by Professor Maria J. Mosquera of the University of Cadiz in Spain and includes Professor Werner E. G. Müller and Professor Xiaohong Wang of the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at the Mainz University Medical Center. The team is examining to what extent a material that employs an innovative self-repair principle would be able to prevent the appearance of cracks and other damage in concrete. It is hoped that the material will also prevent the development of corrosion and rust.

"We are looking to develop a calcium-carbonate/polyphosphate material that can be used for the self-repair of damaged surfaces. In the process, our experience of the generation of new types of medical implants will prove useful," said Müller. The InnovaConcrete project is planned to run for 36 months and will receive total EU funding to the tune of EUR 7 million.  Some EUR 190,000 of this will go to the Mainz University Medical Center. All in all, twenty-nine partners are taking part in the InnovaConcrete project, including the universities in Cadiz, Crete, Darmstadt, Athens, Delft, and Lodz as well as various state research institutions in different European countries and commercial organizations in Europe, the US, and Argentina. The Mainz-based company NanotecMARIN GmbH is also taking part in the InnovaConcrete project.

"In view of the fact that the objective of Horizon 2020 is to provide support to the most innovative research projects, it is as a major achievement that three projects in which the Mainz University Medical Center is involved have attracted funding. This demonstrates that our researchers not only have incredible expertise in fields vital to the future but are capable of providing innovative solutions that will actually help design the future," emphasized Professor Ulrich Förstermann, Chief Scientific Officer of the Mainz University Medical Center.