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Research Field Health

Results and recommendations of strategic evaluation

The Research Field Health makes significant contributions to preventing diseases, making precise diagnoses, and developing effective treatment. In doing so, it considers human beings as complex, holistic systems and aims to establish a far-reaching, comprehensive understanding of how major widespread diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, metabolic, pulmonary, neurodegenerative, and infectious diseases develop, as well as methods of treating them. This work is carried out by means of integrative, interdisciplinary, long-term basic research that focuses on translating research findings into clinical practice at a rapid pace.

"The extent and depth of the research field’s expertise and its capacity to convert findings into medical practice are exceptional."

Susan Gasser, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research. Member of the expert panel.

Programs in the 2021–2027 funding period

• Cancer Research

• Environment-related and Metabolic Diseases

• Systemic Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases

• Infection Research

• Neurodegenerative Diseases

Participating centers

• German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)

• German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)

• Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

• Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

• Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU)

• Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)


Dirk Heinz  - Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)


The expert panel attested that this area’s research activities are unique at the international level and validated its strategies for disease prevention, data-driven diagnostics, and innovative treatment as well as its approach for multidisciplinary research scenarios in all programs. Their report noted that the research field’s programs are highly relevant and have excellent basic research and outstanding infrastructure at their disposal. Translation and clinical research in this area likewise off er enormous potential and will have a decisive impact on improving public health, medical practice, and the industries involved in the healthcare sector.

They deemed the research field’s commitment to training and supporting scientists, which contributes to the diversity, openness, and international attractiveness of the centers, to be particularly noteworthy. All the programs are exceptionally well positioned, as highlighted by the following examples of forward-looking projects:

The National Cancer Prevention Center planned as part of the Cancer Research program represents a particularly creative and innovative initiative in terms of developing powerful approaches and reducing the burden of disease.

In the Environment-related and Metabolic Diseases program, the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus and its synergy eff ects off er brilliant young researchers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to contribute their creativity to innovative biomedical research.

The LifeTime/Cell Clinic approach, which is part of the new Systemic Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases program, directly combines quantitative systemic medicine with analyses of human diseases and off ers groundbreaking potential.

New approaches in research into natural substances, the development of RNA tools, and microbiome research in the Infection Research program off er promising potential for fighting antimicrobial resistances and are therefore of key signifi cance for public health.

Among other things, the Neurodegenerative Diseases program is distinguished by first-class basic research into neuronal mechanisms and provides the opportunity to plan and carry out clinical studies using its own Clinical Studies Platform (as part of a partnership) – which represents a unique advantage for Helmholtz.

The experts noted that the research field’s multi-program, cross-cutting activities in the areas of data science and technology, immunology and inflammation, aging processes, and drug research have been selected to excellent effect and enabled the researchers to benefit from expertise in the other areas. The National Cohort health study was also praised for its incredible potential for discoveries that have an impact on clinical practice.

Strategic Recommendations

  • Translational research should be promoted even more – including an additional focus on preventive medicine – with basic research serving as the foundation.
  • Pressing issues facing global and public health should be addressed.
  • Data-based diagnostics, early detection, treatment, and prevention should be prioritized in all areas.
  • Joint approaches between the centers should be used to boost the exchange and transfer of knowledge.
  • Efforts to recruit top talent and train clinician scientists should be stepped up.

Katja Großmann

Chief Research Manager Health
Helmholtz Association

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