Translational medical research in focus at the DZG Science & Career Day 2023


The DZG Science & Career Day on 12 and 13 June 2023 brought together 100 young scientists at the Urania in Berlin to discuss the topic of "Translational Health Research". Six German Centres for Health Research (DZG) organised the event for the first time. Lectures and workshops provided the participants with important impulses for their careers. The programme also included scientific and personal networking between researchers from the different DZGs.

Prof. Martin Hrabě de Angelis (DZD and Helmholtz München), acting spokesperson of the DZG, and Dr. Ute Petereit (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF) opened the two-day event. Petereit emphasised the role of promoting young researchers as one of the central pillars in the foundation of the DZG. Hrabě de Angelis gave an overview of successes in translational research and underlined: "The DZGs are closely networked. On the scientific level, for example, in joint projects of the DZG Innovation Fund and in six working groups, such as the working group for the career development of young scientists, which organised this event".

Translational research - how does it work?

On the first day, the focus was on research, with a panel discussion on what is meant by translational research in general - surprisingly, with different emphases depending on the professional background of the discussants. The audience also participated actively, asking questions such as how the DZG could provide more sustainable career paths and how young scientists themselves could promote translational research in the health sciences. The panellists said: "If you love science, do it - go where your heart is!”

Spin-offs and product developments as successful translation models

DZG researchers Prof. Martin Witzenrath (DZL, Charité Berlin), Prof. Patrick Most (DZHK, University Hospital Heidelberg and InoCard GmbH) and Prof. Nicole Fischer (DZIF, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf) presented their personal models for success in translational medical research. They also shed light on the tension between business and science from different perspectives. All three reported on their experiences with spin-offs and product development, i.e. successful translation. Most emphasised the importance of starting with the product in mind. You also had to keep in mind the perspective of potential venture capitalists: If you could show that some patients need a certain therapy and that you could make money with it, you can win them over. Witzenrath agreed that it is difficult in Germany to get money to test your ideas, especially in early clinical trials. Most also coined the term "intrapreneurship": the possibility of continuing one's own developments from academic work, for example in a spin-off company. If you want to go in this direction, you need to be aware of the regulatory aspects at an early stage and develop an eye for patents.

In the final session of the first day, participants of the DZG Science & Career Day presented their own scientific projects in short talks and posters.

Interactive workshops for personal career development

The second day's programme focused on career opportunities in translational research. Roman Rehor from the organisation "Young Entrepreneurs in Science" gave a talk on entrepreneurship in science. The subsequent workshops covered career-related topics. As one participant pointed out, "The personal advice and different perspectives of the speakers gave me good direction and ideas for my own career".

The conclusion of the event was that the right mindset, an interdisciplinary network and the enthusiasm of the young scientists contribute decisively to the goal of translational research, i.e. the rapid transfer of research results into medical application.

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