Successful Start of the German-French Cooperation of the DZD

One country by itself cannot solve the challenges of the increasing incidence of diabetes throughout the world. This was the consensus of the participants of the first German-French Conference on Diabetes Research, which was held in December 2014 in the French Embassy in Berlin. Renowned scientists from both countries exchanged views at the kick-off event of the German-French Diabetes Academy of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) and INSERM / AVIESAN (Institute of Health and Medical Research / Alliance for Life Sciences and Health).

In a panel discussion, representatives from science, government and industry under the moderation of Professor Günther Wess, scientific director of Helmholtz Zentrum München, a research partner in the DZD, discussed the challenge of translational diabetes research, the cooperation between industry and science and the political framework conditions in Germany and France.
Christian Boitard, director of the multi-agency thematic institute Institut thématique multiorganisme (ITMO) “Circulation, métabolisme, nutrition”, INSERM/AVIESAN Paris, reported on the situation in France, where the incidence of diabetes likewise follows the global trend and has risen sharply. In his opinion, to improve health, knowledge about the disease must be increased. For this purpose, transnational cooperation projects are needed both in the context of academic research and with industry.
The German Federal Government has established six centers for health research to help combat major widespread diseases, including the German Center for Diabetes Research. “This national research network could also be a suitable model for international cooperation,” said Wess.

Striving for interdisciplinary collaboration – also internationally
Professor Martin Hrabě de Angelis, member of the DZD Board and director of the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München, explained the advantages that arise when research institutes with different thematic focuses cooperate. Results from basic research can be utilized faster and in a more targeted way in clinical applications, and through this cooperation patients benefit from this research sooner. The aim of the DZD is to develop new approaches to personalized diabetes prevention and therapy. “In recent years we have benefited from the very intensive interdisciplinary cooperation in the DZD. That is why we should strive to establish similar intensive collaboration between France and Germany,” said Professor Hans-Ulrich Häring, member of the DZD Board and medical director of the Medical Clinic IV of the University of Tübingen.
Wess stressed: “For a successful implementation of new therapeutic approaches it is also important to collaborate closely with industry.” Also from the perspective of Riccardo Perfetti, senior medical officer and vice president of Global Medical Affairs at Sanofi, a network between industry and academic research institutions would be meaningful, since knowledge of molecular relationships is a prerequisite for the development of new drugs. The aim must be to enable a change in the treatment of diabetes, which offers patients greater safety and lower disease burden.
As further representative of Sanofi, Isabelle Thizon-De-Gaulle, vice president of European Initiatives and Scientific Relations, confirmed that for industry a network of excellent scientists is required to achieve these goals. Corresponding cooperation projects already exist, which have shown that the partners complement each other and benefit from the cooperation.
Florence Rivière-Bourhis, embassy counsellor and head of the Department of Science and Technology of the French Embassy, said that joint projects should be made visible externally in order to gain more supporters.
In the subsequent plenary sessions German and French diabetes scientists presented highlights of their diabetes research at the DZD and/or at INSERM/AVIESAN. Both renowned researchers and young scientists participated in the conference.

Good conditions exist in both countries
During the closing speech at the kick-off event, Philip Larsen, vice president and head of the Research and Translational Medicine Diabetes Division of Sanofi, concluded that the governments in France and Germany already have created good conditions for pioneering diabetes research. This can be further strengthened through more intensive networking between the two countries. The challenge here is to find therapies that not only reduce blood glucose levels – there are enough of these already – but also to prevent the comorbidities and complications of diabetes. In his appeal to scientists concerned with diabetes research, he said that these challenges are nothing in comparison to the difficulties with which diabetes patients have had to live up to now.

This high-profile event was initiated by the French Embassy in Berlin to promote German-French exchange in the field of diabetes research. A first step for the cooperation is the German-French Diabetes Academy in which young German and French scientists collaborate on important topics of diabetes research. The initiative is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), INSERM/AVIESAN and Sanofi.

Partner organizations:

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) was established in 2009 by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as a national research network. More than 250 scientists from basic research and the clinic collaborate closely in six research programs thus enabling a timely utilization of the results. The objective of all research at the DZD is to develop personalized prevention strategies and effective diabetes therapies tailored to the individual patient.
Members of the network are Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DifE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the University of Tübingen and the Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital Dresden and associated partners at the universities in Heidelberg, Cologne, Leipzig, Lübeck and Munich.

AVIESAN (The French National Alliance for Life Sciences and Health) was founded in April 2009 with the aim of enhancing the performance of the French research through improved coherence and the promotion of creativity and excellence. The alliance is comprised of the main stakeholders of life sciences and health sciences in France. The objectives of AVIESAN include the coordination of strategic analyses, scientific programming and the operational implementation of life and health science research, the acceleration of the knowledge transfer from basic research into clinical applications and the promotion of transdisciplinarity. Furthermore, AVIESAN aims to ensure the clinical, economic and social exploitation of knowledge, in particular by promoting industrial partnerships and defining common positions in European research and international cooperation and through the harmonization and simplification of administrative procedures for laboratories, in order to provide the research teams with greater scope for creativity and excellence. The founding members of the alliance are: INSERM, Institut Pasteur, the Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the French Agency for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy (CEA), the Lille Regional University Hospital (CHRU), the Conference of University Presidents (CPU), the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) and the Institute for Research and Development (IRD).

The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) was founded in 1964 and is a public scientific and technological institute dedicated to biomedical research and research focused on human health. As an interface between research laboratories and patients, INSERM implements multidisciplinary programs for cutting-edge research to study human diseases.

Sanofi is a world-leading, integrated healthcare company oriented on patients' needs that is engaged in the research, development and marketing of therapeutic solutions. In the health sector, Sanofi focuses on seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, vaccines, innovative drugs, over-the-counter healthcare products, emerging markets, animal health and Genzyme. The shares of Sanofi are traded on the stock exchanges of Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and New York (NYSE: SNY).

The Department of Science and Technology of the French Embassy in Germany serves as a branch office for French research abroad. Its main mission is to promote scientific and technological cooperation with its most important partner.

Dr. Astrid Glaser, Managing Director,
German Center for Diabetes Research
at Helmholtz Zentrum München
Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg
Phone: +49(0) 89-3187-1619

Marie de Chalup, French Embassy
Section for Partnerships and Communication
Research Division
Phone: +49 (0)30 590 03 92 62 / -63