• The medical genome research building on Campus Berlin-Buch

    A Vibrant Healthcare Network


 Campus Berlin-Buch

 in the north of Brain City Berlin has grown to become one of Europe’s largest business and research centres for life sciences. Economics, science and clinical research are closely intertwined to develop innovative diagnostic medical devices and new medications, making the site a truly unique location. 

The Timoféeff-Ressovsky building elegantly sweeps around the lush lawns of the Campus Berlin-Buch. Shrubs, trees and blue sky are reflected in the lamella-like windows of the exterior. The medical genome research building was named after Nikolai Vladimirovich Timofeev-Ressovsky. The geneticist worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin-Buch in the 1930s and 1940s and, together with Max Delbrück, was considered one of the founding fathers of molecular genetics. Genome research also takes place in the modern laboratory building on campus, which is operated and used by both the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (Leibniz Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology, FMP). 

Past and present converge here to create the future – just like on the entire Campus Berlin-Buch, which has grown to become one of Europe’s largest business and research centres for life sciences since its formation in 1992. Around 70 companies have settled on the 32-hectare site, which also forms part of a historical healthcare centre. Back in the early 20th century, healthcare facilities had been built in Buch: one healthcare city with five hospitals whose listed buildings are still used today. The companies on campus research, develop and produce in close collaboration with the renowned research institutes on site. In addition to the MDC and FMP, these include the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) by Charité and the MDC as well as the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) which specialises in clinical research. “The special thing about the Campus Berlin-Buch is the network structure between economics, science and clinical research. The research institutes, biotech companies and clinics form a vibrant healthcare network in Buch which leads to the creation of new diagnostic medical devices and medications,” says Dr Ulrich Scheller, Managing Director of Campus Berlin-Buch GmbH. “Research, development, production, education and social interaction all come together as one here.”

One place for small and major success stories

The paths around the campus were just as busy when the second corona lockdown was eased. After all, around 2,800 people from over 70 nations work here; English is the main language spoken. Anyone in a hurry can rent a campus bike. The centrally located Mensa restaurant or Café Max in the historical “Torhaus” building make a relaxed spot for a snack or meal. With its integrated passageway, the latter also continues to form the western entrance to the campus today. Eckert & Ziegler Strahlen- und Medizintechnik AG is situated directly opposite. The company is one of the largest providers of isotopic components for nuclear medicine and radiation therapy. It also supplies substances for radioactive medications used in cancer therapy worldwide. The company first appeared on the site in 1992 and is one of the campus’ earliest start-ups. Success stories such as that of Eckert & Ziegler continue to remain possible here today. Entrepreneurs and young businesses can not only rent modern laboratory and office spaces at the innovation and start-up centre at the BiotechPark Berlin-Buch, but also benefit from the know-how, experience and materials of those around them. The innovative spirit remained unhampered even during the pandemic-related lockdown, as Ulrich Scheller confirms: “There was no sense of slowing down here; quite the opposite. Many biotechs were busy with orders due to the crisis as they form part of the supply chain for the development and production of corona tests and vaccines.” 

One of these biotech companies is CONGEN Biotechnologie. Right at the start of the corona pandemic, it quickly developed a PCR test to directly detect the virus. Other companies, such as Invitek Molecular GmbH, provide components and services for COVID-19 tests. The research institutes on campus also brought many respected projects to life, focussing on the effects of COVID-19 on the vascular system or heart conditions following COVID-19. Innovative research and development in other areas can also be found on the campus. One of these includes the young biotech company “T-knife” based in Buch – a spin-off founded by the MDC and Charité and one of Germany’s most successful biotech start-ups. The research team around Prof. Thomas Blankenstein at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association enabled cells in the human immune system, so-called T cells, to be genetically modified so that their receptors could detect and destroy specific tumour cells. With the help of this technology, the company develops one of the first T cell receptor-based gene therapies in Germany.

Visitors are welcome

Another characteristic of the Campus Berlin-Buch is its openness. Berliners and visitors from all around the world visit the science park, and not just for the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften (Long Night of Sciences) event. There are many reasons to visit with the sculpture park, concerts, regular campus cinema events, cafés, a bakery and even a science museum on site. The ‘Gläsernes Labor’ (Transparent Laboratory) is a special attraction, which offers extracurricular experiment-based courses on the topics of molecular biology, cell biology, neurobiology, chemistry, radioactivity and radioecology. Each year, more than 14,000 secondary school students take part in the courses. The laboratory, which is a joint project by the MDC, FMP and the Campus Berlin-Buch, is one of the most frequently visited laboratories by school students in Germany. “The Gläsernes Labor allows children and adolescents to conduct independent experiments under the guidance of scientists,” says Ulrich Scheller. “The courses offered by the student laboratory are closely linked to current research on the campus. This allows us to impart knowledge that isn’t even found in textbooks yet. We also offer further training for skilled workers and entrepreneurs.” 

The plans for the Campus Berlin-Buch involve another research building by 2030, such as an Optical Imaging Center for the MDC. Additional premises will be built for start-ups on the site. The building works for the new BerlinBioCube start-up centre are already in full swing. From 2023, 30 biotech start-ups with up to 400 employees will be offered premises for research and working. “We are also working in close collaboration with the senate and district to expand the campus to the surrounding area; nine hectares along the Karower Chaussee,” reveals Ulrich Scheller. “In recent years, the campus has benefited heavily from Berlin’s appeal to young foreigners, including many founders.” The charisma of the start-up capital can also be felt with the comparably high influx to the venture capital. “This draw has also boosted the previously low costs of living in Berlin. The same applies at the future-oriented Buch site.”

Another benefit of the Campus Berlin-Buch: The campus’ research institutes have close connections with all of Berlin’s universities, whether through joint research projects, professors of research group leaders at the MDC and FMP, or postgraduate studies. “However, the closest partnership is with the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the area of clinical research, particularly under the roof of the shared Experimental and Clinical Research Center and the Berlin Institute of Health.”

For Ulrich Scheller, who also comes from a research background, the campus developments are an exciting and diverse area. “It comes with plenty of new territory and unpredictability - just like in research. As previously mentioned, we also have excellent networks on our campus. You can regularly found out about new research topics and projects or experience exciting presentations.” This high-quality network, just like the wide variety of topics and quality of research on site, makes the campus the heart of Berlin’s “Zukunftsort” Berlin-Buch site as well as a healthcare centre in the Brain City Berlin. (vdo)

Read more about healthcare industries in Berlin on healthcapital.de


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