Promoter of Stem Cell Research
Professor Dr. Otmar Wiestler
Chairman of the German Cancer Research Center
The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. It has a staff of nearly 3000 members, including more than 1000 scientists. They strive to elucidate the mechanisms by which cancer develops and identify risk factors for cancer. The goal is to obtain new evidence on which to base the development of new methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer.
In his inaugural lecture in 2004, Professor Wiestler pointed out that stem cells and cancer cells have many characteristics in common, for example, their unlimited capacity for cell division and their ability to differentiate into different cell types.
The propensity of cancer cells to migrate from the primary tumor to other parts of the body also corresponds with that of stem cells. These similarities prompted his decision to expand stem cell research at the German Cancer Research Institute.
With the appointment of Professor Dr. Andreas Trumpp as Director of the Department of Stem Cells and Cancer, the Center succeeded in acquiring an internationally renowned cancer stem cell expert. In collaboration with the Dietmar Hopp Stiftung, Otmar Wiestler and Andreas Trumpp initiated the establishment of the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM) in 2008. This novel public-private partnership model was one of the main reasons why the Cellular and Molecular Medicine cluster of excellence of the "Biotech Region Rhine-Neckar" (BioRN) won the Top Cluster Award of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in 2008.
At a press conference on HI-STEM on October 27, 2008, Wiestler explained his initiative as follows: "We are currently at a stage in which we are increasingly better able to understand why cancer develops in humans. The challenge now is to use the results of basic research to develop new applications for clinical practice. To make this step, we need strong partners, not only from the field of medicine, but also from the industry."