Press release 26/24 - 11.03.2024

Pandemic Preparedness: New High-Tech Laboratory in Augsburg

EU Project PerForM-REACT Strengthens Pandemic Preparedness Efforts

On March 11, 2024, the inauguration of the expanded safety laboratory in Augsburg marked a milestone within the EU-funded "PerForM-REACT" project, aimed at enhancing pandemic preparedness. Equipped with high-tech infrastructure, this facility enables advanced research capabilities. A collaborative effort between Helmholtz Munich and the University Hospital Augsburg, the project not only boosters the efficacy of pandemic prevention but also fosters interdisciplinary cooperation in health research. It operates under the umbrella of the European COVID-19 aid program "REACT-EU" and receives support from the European Regional Development Fund.



The EU initiative PerForM-REACT is committed to "Pandemic Preparedness," striving for optimal readiness in the face of emerging pandemics through enhanced research infrastructures and interdisciplinary collaboration. Over approximately two years, partners including Helmholtz Munich, University Hospital Augsburg, and the Technical University of Munich have collaboratively established cutting-edge infrastructure within a Bavarian network, strategically located across Neuherberg, Augsburg, Garching, and Munich sites. This research framework has propelled scientific institutions into closer alignment, intensifying their focus on combating and forestalling pandemics. Primarily, it aims to formulate proactive strategies for pandemic preparedness and facilitate swift-response management strategies. The recent expansion of the Augsburg Biosafety Level 2 laboratory (BSL2) seamlessly complements the Biosafety Level 3 laboratory (BSL3), inaugurated a year prior at the Helmholtz Munich Campus in Neuherberg.

Dr. Michael Frieser, Administrative Managing Director at Helmholtz Munich, says: “The backing from the European Union has paved the way for the design of our laboratories with cutting-edge technologies. This empowers our outstanding researchers to play an active role in preventing future pandemics.”

Emphasis on Respiratory Infections and Environmental Dynamics

Research endeavors have already commenced in Augsburg, directing attention towards allergies and translational studies exploring the interaction of human health and the environment. Researchers are delving into the correlation between environmental factors, notably aerosols, and diseases, alongside identifying COVID-19 biomarkers crucial for early disease detection and progression tracking. Notably, the measurement and quantification of virus particles in aerosols within patient rooms and public spaces are poised to pave the way for developing exceptionally sensitive early warning systems for pandemics.

“Not only with these new devices and expanded laboratory capacities but also with the strengthened collaborations and opportunities for further cooperation, we are better prepared for the next pandemic. However, we aspire far more than mere readiness. We aim to detect and identify pathogens before they propagate. We aspire to possess such a deep understanding of aerosol dispersion that we can pinpoint and neutralize them proactively, averting potential harm. We want to comprehend immunological connections and environmental influences to such an extent that we can strengthen our health, making it more challenging for pathogens to affect us. In this sense, this project stands as a proactive stride forward, a sound investment in the future and health of all of us,” says Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Director at the Helmholtz Munich Institute for Environmental Medicine and Professor of Environmental Medicine at the Medical Faculty of the University of Augsburg.

At the Helmholtz Munich campus in Neuherberg, located near Munich, scientists are actively employing state-of-the-art microscopic, molecular, and structural biological detection methods. Their research delves into the effects of respiratory infections on vital organs, particularly the lungs, and aims to develop new drugs to prevent organ damage. Collaborating closely with the University Hospital Augsburg, their joint efforts are concentrated on elucidating the airborne transmission dynamics of viruses responsible for triggering respiratory infections.

A strong research network

“In addition to the newly acquired laboratory equipment, Helmholtz Munich and Augsburg University Hospital together form an exemplary research consortium poised to significantly contribute to pandemic preparedness,” explains Prof. Dr. Andreas Rathgeber, Vice President for Educational Success, Teaching, and Studies at the University of Augsburg. “We will have many exciting opportunities for cooperation between our institutions in the long term. Our scientists will conduct interdisciplinary research on issues that affect a large part of the world's population: Exposure, air pollution, climate change, infectious diseases, or cancer. No one can or should solve these problems alone and the laboratories opened today will be a place where interdisciplinarity is put into practice to find solutions to these major issues."

Website:

PerForM-REACT: Pandemieprävention und -bewältigung - Helmholtz Munich (helmholtz-munich.de)

Further information:
Better Prepared in Future: Research Infrastructure for Pandemic Management and Prevention Expanded - Helmholtz Munich (helmholtz-munich.de)

Im Kampf gegen die Viren - Helmholtz Munich (helmholtz-munich.de)

About the scientists

Prof. Traidl-Hoffmann, Direktorin des Helmholtz Munich-Instituts für Umweltmedizin (IEM) und Professorin für Umweltmedizin an der Medizinischen Fakultät der Universität Augsburg

Prof. Protzer, Direktorin des Instituts für Virologie bei Helmholtz Munich und an der Technischen Universität München (TUM)

Traidl

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