NEWS FROM THE EMBO COMMUNITY
The Frankfurt Institute for Molecular Life Sciences opens its doors
After five years of planning, construction and recruitment of researchers, the Frankfurt Institute for Molecular Life Sciences held its opening ceremony on
16 December 2011. The institute, an interdisciplinary center of excellence for the study of macromolecules, was founded in 2009. The newly opened building is a 3100 m2 state-of-the-art facility for the life sciences on the Riedberg campus of the Goethe University Frankfurt.
“We wanted to establish an open, interdisciplinary institute that offered a new organizational structure for life science research,” says Ivan Dikic, Scientific Director of the institute
been shared from 2009 by the Scientific Director Dikic and Volker Dötsch, Vice Director and Professor at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry of the Goethe University Frankfurt. In 2012, Ernst Stelzer, a newly recruited Professor at the institute and Professor at the Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Goethe University Frankfurt, will join as Vice Director. All three scientists are EMBO Members.
Dikic and his team use molecular and functional approaches to study ubiquitin, a cellular protein that regulates many important cellular process- es. Dötsch, an expert in structural biology, focuses on the characterization of membrane proteins and mechanisms of quality control in the female germline by the p53 family of proteins. Ernst Stelzer is a physicist who uses advanced light microscopy to analyze cellular and developmental processes.
Scientific discoveries are already emerging from interdisciplinary research at the institute. Researchers are revealing new defense mechanisms against pathogens, different signaling pathways in the immune system, and how DNA damage impacts the quality control of the genetic integrity of egg cells. A recent milestone in the field of DNA nanotechnology was the crea- tion of two rings of DNA, each 18 nanometers in diameter, and interlocking the molecules like two links in a chain. These small DNA molecules may be used in the future to arrange and study other proteins or other molecules that are currently too small for manipulation.
The German Federal Government and the State Government of Hesse provided Euros 24.5 million for the construction phase of the project and an additional Euros 2.4 million to support the acquisition of laboratory equip-
and Professor at Goethe University Frankfurt. “The result is a collabora- ment. The Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt “Macromolecular Complexes”
tive environment for the study of macromolecules that allows researchers to work across traditional scientific disciplines including physics, biochemistry, chemistry, biology and medicine.”
The institute has come a long way in a short time. Scientists in the Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt “Macromolecular Complexes” at Goethe University Frankfurt and leadership from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics were instrumental in making the original concept for an interdisciplinary center a reality. Harald Schwalbe, Speaker of the Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt
“Macromolecular Complexes” points out: “We are establishing an interna- tionally competitive institute that will decipher the structure, composition and interaction of large molecular complexes essential for life within the cell.”
The institute offers workspace for 180 scientists. Nine research groups are working in the building and two more will join shortly. At maximum capacity, 14 scientific groups will perform fundamental research, develop new techniques for the life scienc- es, and train scientists, students and visiting research scholars.
Inside the new building, the arrangement of offices, laborato- ries and core facilities promotes interaction between the differ- ent research groups. Core facili- ties, which include resources for advanced light microscopy, a dedi- cated facility for the production of protein crystals, and an electron microscopy suite, provide services for scientists on campus as well as external customers.
Says Dikic: “The life science research landscape changes rapidly but one significant prior- ity for us is to encourage a creative dialogue about science without a hierarchical structure of lead- ership. A team-style leadership offers balanced decision-making and, most importantly, gives us more time for science while sharing administrative duties.” Consistent with this philosophy, the leadership of the institute has
provided more than 20 million Euros to support the recruitment and opera- tions of research groups at the institute.
Ivan Dikic and Volker Dötsch
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