Due to increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates, the percentage of old people in the population continuously rises and poses ever growing challenges to our society and our health system. Chronic common and old age diseases such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, diabetes, lung diseases, degenerative diseases of the nervous system or chronic inflammatory diseases as well as them being influenced by environmental factors and life style continue to grow in relevance and, in addition to research on infectious diseases, stand at the centre of the Helmholtz health research.
Scientists from those Helmholtz Centres involved in the research field Health study causes and emergence of these often complex diseases and on this basis develop new strategies for early detection, prevention, diagnosis and therapy. In recent years, the participating centres have increasingly drawn on new forms of collaboration with strong partners from medical schools, universities, other research organisations and industry. To enable the fastest possible transfer of promisingapproaches from basic research into clinical application, the Helmholtz Health Centres currently are developing Translation Centres at their sites in close interaction with local partners from university medicine.
Powerful and sustainable structures for networking research competencies of extramural and university health research are being created for important disease fields. Thus 2009 saw the establishment of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases e. V. (DZNE) with its core site in Bonn as well as the German Centre for Diabetes Research e.V. (DZD), members of which are the Helmholtz Zentrum München, university partners and institutes from the Leibniz Association. Further centres, amongst them the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research, coordinated by the German Cancer Research Centre DKFZ, will be put out to tender in 2010.
One of the future key tasks aims to advance German health research by integrating the entire expertise and competence at the Helmholtz Health Centres, university hospitals and other research organisations to create strong strategic partnerships. The biomedical knowledge gain for socially important disease fields is in the foreground and - bundled in consortiums or networks - will yield concrete clinical applications and thus strengthen the German health research with lasting effect and reposition it internationally.