A large number of sequenced genetic codes, extensive market analyses and three new professorships – significant interim results after three years of LOEWE funding

The LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (TBG) has a name, which most people cannot pronounce without some difficulty – what does “translational” actually mean? What are the fields that the scientists at the LOEWE Centre are focusing on in their research work and, most of all, what have they been able to achieve during the first three years of their LOEWE funding?

Scientists within the TBG LOEWE Centre are cooperating with the Senckenberg Nature Research Society, the Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, the Justus Liebig University in Giessen and the Fraunhofer Institute IME and are seeking to decode the genetic codes (genomes) of all living creatures and making them useful. Before TBG LOEWE existed, only a few research scientists at Senckenberg were working on the DNA of organisms or analysing complete genomes. However, this topic is becoming increasingly important for science and society and, thanks to the rapid development of the methods and the unparalleled fall in prices, the scientists saw the possibility of meeting this need with a structure-forming research initiative. Up until a few years ago, the human genome was the only one that was familiar to scientists. The genomes of 267 species have now been decoded by TBG LOEWE alone. A genome contains the complete genetic information about a living creature in the form of chromosomes and the sequence of each individual is unique. A genome sequence not only provides information about what a living creature looks like, but also how it was able to develop into its current form during the last few millennia. As a partner within the Earth BioGenome Project, the LOEWE Centre is working on sequencing the complete genetic information of all living organisms and archiving this in databases. These findings will not only benefit the environmental sciences and the protection of species, but can also provide important information for medicine and pharmacy. 

It has been possible to set up three new cooperative professorships for biodiversity genomics at Senckenberg and the Goethe University in Frankfurt – and at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. Professor Dr Michael Hiller is head of the project field entitled comparative genomics, for example. Professor Dr Miklós Bálint is conducting research into the composition of ecological communities using genomic methods and Professor Dr Eric Helfrich is working for TBG LOEWE at the Goethe University in the field of exploratory natural substance genomics.

One special feature is the working group for transfer activities, which has been set up as part of the LOEWE funding and is responsible for introducing the application potential and market opportunities for the TBG research results to the (specialist) public. This is a structure-forming element, which distinguishes the LOEWE Centre from other genome initiatives. 

The TBG LOEWE Centre is currently applying for a second phase of funding.