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Press Release No. 40 | 10 October 2013
DFG Establishes Five New Research Units

Approximately 12 Million Euros over the Next Three Years for Research on Proteins, to Uncover the Physiological Basis for Cognitive Processes and Mimetic Cultural Techniques

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing five new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Senate at its October meeting. The purpose of the research collaborations is to offer researchers the possibility to pursue current, pressing issues in their subject areas and to establish innovative work directions.

Like with all DFG Research Units, collaboration will be interdisciplinary and span multiple locations. In the initial 3-year funding period, they will receive approximately 12 million euros. The DFG is thus currently supporting a total of 205 Research Units.

The new Research Units
(in alphabetical order by host university)

The "Data Assimilation for Improved Characterisation of Fluxes across Compartmental Interfaces" Research Unit will use complex and dynamic models to simulate water and energy flows from the ground water up to the atmosphere. Soil physicists and geophysicists, hydrogeologists and meteorologists will work with environmental physicists and experts in fluid mechanics from the universities of Augsburg, Bonn, Hamburg, Hanover and Tübingen and the Helmholtz Association institutes in Jülich and Leipzig to develop and thoroughly test data assimilation techniques. The researchers hope that the results and models will provide better options for weather and climate forecasting and improve quality assurance in water management, thus delivering fresh impetus to interdisciplinary research in a number of areas related to the environment.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Clemens Simmer, University of Bonn)

The Bcl-2 (b-cell-lymphoma 2) family of proteins plays an important part in regulating programmed cell death. Over recent years, research has shown that complex molecular interactions in some members of the family facilitate cell death while others prevent it. Mutations and faulty regulation can contribute to the emergence and the development of therapy resistance in some types of cancer such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The new Research Unit aims to provide "New Insights into Bcl-2 Family Interactions: From Biophysics to Function". Working groups from Germany, Austria and Switzerland will combine basic and pre-clinical research in an interdisciplinary approach that draws on and links biophysics, cellular and molecular biology, protein chemistry and human pathology. The desired outcome is a better understanding of the complex regulation of the Bcl-2 network in normal physiological processes and in pathogenesis, such as in normal and in malignant and abnormal haematosis.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Brunner, University of Constance)

How are blood-forming stem cells in the human organism controlled by the regulatory structures of the cells that surround them? This question concerning the "stem cell niche" is of wide-ranging importance and is the focus of the "The Hematopoietic Niches" Research Unit, which will be represented in several locations: Munich, Freiburg, Dresden and Heidelberg. It intends to explain in detail the biology of the bone marrow niche and its role in health and disease. Working groups in basic and clinical research will work together to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms. They will combine genetic and molecular models and imaging processes and technologies. It is hoped that it will be possible to apply the findings in the long term to the treatment of blood diseases and go beyond that to improve the understanding of other stem cells.
(Spokesperson: PD Dr. Robert A. J. Oostendorp, Technical University of Munich)

In order to understand cognitive processes such as perception or communication, it is also necessary to know about the information flows in the brain which underlie them, from the neuronal and synaptic level to interactions across different areas of the brain. The Research Unit entitled "The Physiology of Distributed Computing Underlying Higher Brain Function in Non-human Primates" will bring neuroscientists from Tübingen, Göttingen, Frankfurt and Marburg together to study the assimilation of information and its modulation in defined neuronal circuits. Using modern electrophysiological methods, the researchers are hoping to gain new insight into central cognitive abilities and processes which it would not be possible to acquire from humans and rodents. As part of the project, it is intended to establish and make transparent ethical standpoints and standards concerning experiments on primates.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Thier, University Hospital Tübingen)

The "History and Theory of Mimetic Practice" Research Unit will examine one of the most important and powerful categories of aesthetics. Since ancient times, mimesis (or imitation) has been the subject of much philosophical, artistic and cultural reflection. Researchers in cultural and media disciplines now want to take a fresh look at the practice of this productive cultural technique which they intend to recreate and interpret in their processes. They will look at very different areas of culture and consult very different references to investigate the question of how in the modern age a concept has developed from an aesthetic norm in the history of philosophy to have social and media-related dimensions.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Siegert, Bauhaus University Weimar)

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2443,

More detailed information is provided by the spokespersons of the established units.

For information on DFG Research Units and Clinical Research Units also see: