A 'model' new research center

Bayer and RWTH Aachen University create center for computer-based modeling

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AACHEN, Germany—RWTH Aachen University and Bayer Technology Services (BTS) have founded the Joint Research Center on Computational Biomedicine. The objective of this precompetitive partnership is the development of new methods in the fast-growing area of computer-based modeling of complex biological processes.
The new research center initially will have a staff of around 10 and is expected to develop into one of the leading institutions in Europe by 2018, according to the company and the university. The research center is a component of both the Research Cluster for Modeling and Simulation and the Faculty of Medicine at RWTH Aachen University.
Signing the sponsoring agreement for the center in October were Prof. Ernst Schmachtenberg, the rector of RWTH Aachen University; Prof. Stefan Uhlig, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at RWTH Aachen University and member of the board of the University Hospital RWTH Aachen; Prof. Wolfgang Plischke, the member of the Bayer AG board of management responsible for technology, innovation and sustainability; and BTS Managing Director Dr. Dirk Van Meirvenne.
The Joint Research Center on Computational Biomedicine will be headed by Prof. Andreas Schuppert, a key expert on industrial mathematics at Bayer Technology Services and university professor at the Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science of RWTH Aachen University. He will work in collaboration with another professor still to be appointed.
Schuppert, whose research has focused on data-based modeling in material sciences, chemical engineering sciences and systems biology, describes his main ambition as “the development of hybrid model structures combining artificial intelligence model components with mechanistic models and system structure.” His application focus is on modeling of reactive chemical processes and materials, and his current research activities include the development of hybrid mathematical approaches that enable the establishment of model-based biomarkers for clinical applications in the treatment of complex diseases, as well as optimization and control of cellular engineering in stem cell research.
According to Schmachtenberg, “The mathematical modeling and simulation of complex biological processes is the key to developing completely novel medicines and therapies. Many companies and research facilities are already working in this relatively young scientific discipline, but there isn't a comparable collaboration anywhere with such a broad base of expertise and experience with taking basic research into practice.”
“Bayer is the only company of its size to combine research and development in the fields of human, animal and crop health,” Plischke explained in his opening remarks at the event for the signing of the collaboration document. “Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms in biology is therefore of high strategic relevance for our life-science units.”
“We want to enlarge our competence in this field together with the RWTH Aachen,” added Plischke in reference to the significance of the strategic partnership.
“Without computers, we could never fully understand diseases or climate changes. The complexity is simply too big,” noted Uhlig, in describing the advantages for patients at the collaboration signing. “This research will not only help to shed light on fundamental physiological processes, but it will also help us to better understand a multitude of diseases. This, in turn, enables new active ingredients to be developed more quickly and to be used more precisely during a course of treatment.”
RWTH Aachen University is one of Germany’s largest technical universities, with 40,000 students, 260 departments, 500 professorships and 10,000 staff members. The chemical engineering department has more than 30 years of experience in all fields of membrane technology research, ranging from electrodialysis to micro- and ultrafiltration to gas permeation. It has also played a leading role in propagating membrane technology in Germany, through books, publications, courses on membrane processes and regular organization of membrane conferences such as the Aachener Membrane Kolloquium.
Aachen’s research work focuses on technically and socially relevant issues. Interdisciplinary research in larger collaborations is gaining increasing importance in these fields, and the university has set up profile areas in which professors from various disciplines come together in joint research consortia. With this strategy, RWTH has been honored twice now as part of the Excellence Initiative of the federal and state governments.
BTS offers fully integrated global solutions along the lifecycle of chemical and pharmaceutical plants, from development through engineering and construction to process optimization for existing plants. The Bayer subsidiary employs 2,300 people worldwide at its headquarters in Leverkusen and other German locations, as well as in regional offices in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The company’s 2012 sales totaled approximately $619.4 million.

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