Among the most cited researchers worldwide in 2022 are six members of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation".
Once a year, the "Web of Science Group" of the US company Clarivate Analytics analyzes the importance of scientists based on their citation rates. Researchers whose work is cited particularly frequently by their peers are considered to be especially important and influential in their field. The Highly Cited Researchers ranking lists scientists who have contributed to several of the top one-percent most cited publications in their field over the past decade.
In 2022, 6,938 of the world's researchers from 21 research fields were on the list. Among them were six members of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) from Kiel and Lübeck: Axel Hauschild, Rolf Hilgenfeld, Christine Klein, Frank Leypoldt, Stefan Rose-John and Stefan Schreiber.
The evaluation is based on the "Web of Science Core Collection" database. This lists scientific articles from around 21,000 journals. For this year's list of "Highly Cited Researchers" the period 2011 to 2021 was analyzed. The ranking is an important indicator of the influence of scientific publications that belong to the most cited one percent of their field. In 2022, 6938 of the world's researchers from 69 countries were on the list.
The mechanisms of inflammation and the development of new therapies for chronic inflammatory diseases have been the research focus of Professor Stefan Schreiber for many years. Building on new molecular findings, he is researching innovative approaches to the prevention and therapy of these diseases. On Schreiber's initiative, the Inflammation at Interfaces network was formed in 2004, which was funded from 2007 to 2018 through the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments and has continued as the Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation (PMI) excellence cluster since 2019. In 2020, Schreiber received the prestigious research award from the umbrella organization of European gastroenterology societies, the UEG, to develop a new therapy for people with inflammatory bowel disease based on a molecular nutritional intervention. With the goal of treating inflammation holistically rather than organ-fixated, he developed the idea for an interdisciplinary inflammation clinic. Since 2009, patients have been treated according to this idea in the Center of Excellence for Inflammation Medicine at UKSH, Kiel Campus.
Schreiber was awarded the Science Prize of the City of Kiel in 2005 and has been on the list of "Highly Cited Researchers" for the sixth time in a row since 2017. As principal investigator, he has accompanied more than 80 clinical trials in the field of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, more than 50 of them as lead investigator. He is a member of various professional societies, has chaired numerous national and international meetings, is co-editor of international journals and author or co-author of more than 950 publications in scientific journals.
Since his time as a resident physician in the Clinic for Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology of the UKSH, Campus Kiel, more than 30 years ago, Professor Axel Hauschild has been interested in skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma, black skin cancer, a highly malignant tumor. The introduction of new drugs has significantly improved treatment for advanced disease in recent years. "The 5-year survival, which is used as a measure of cure, was 5% for advanced melanoma in 2010 and is now 52%. But there are now effective therapies for light skin cancer as well - even for non-operable patients with very large and metastatic tumors," emphasizes Hauschild, who has played a major role in this success.
Hauschild has been principal investigator of more than 120 clinical trials on various skin cancers, has been invited to more than 700 conferences around the world, and has published 440 articles in high-impact scientific journals. As of 2019, he is on the Highly Cited Researchers list for the fourth consecutive year. In recognition of his clinical and scientific contributions to skin cancer therapy, Hauschild received the German Skin Cancer Award in 2003 and the German Cancer Society's German Cancer Award in 2011. He is a long-standing board member of the European Association of Dermato-Oncology (EADO), served as president of the German Skin Cancer Society (ADO) for 8 years, and twice each as president of the German Skin Cancer Congress and the Melanoma World Congress, where he was elected president of the Melanoma World Society (MWS) in 2021.
Professor Rolf Hilgenfeld is an expert in biochemical structure research. He began his research activities in the pharmaceutical industry: before 1995 he was involved in the development of the long-acting insulin "Lantus". His research focuses on the structural elucidation of coronaviruses. In the course of the first SARS epidemic in 2002/2003, he elucidated the world's first two crystal structures of coronavirus proteins and provided initial insights into the development of potential new inhibitors. When SARS-CoV-2 broke out in January 2020, his group was the first to elucidate the crystal structure of the major protease of this virus and to develop a new inhibitor on this basis. The results were published in Science. This work serves as a basis for the development of new drugs against SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. nirmatrelvir/paxlovid and ensitrelvir).
Hilgenfeld is a biochemist and senior professor at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Lübeck. He has already co-founded the predecessor Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" and continues to be a member of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI).
Professor Christine Klein's central research interest is the hereditary causes of movement disorders, such as familial Parkinson's syndromes or dystonia, a group of movement disorders that have their neurological origin in the motor centers in the brain. Prof. Klein's focus is particularly on the question of why many people who are carriers of a disease-causing genetic mutation do not become ill but remain healthy, and how the genetic makeup of those with the disease can affect the success of therapy.
Professor Christine Klein is Director of the Institute of Neurogenetics and Head of the Neurogenetics Section at the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck Campus, and a board member of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI). She is acting Past-President of the German Society of Neurology (more than 11,000 members), "Chair-Elect of the European Section of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society", spokesperson of the DFG Research Group FOR 2488 on reduced penetrance of movement disorders and leader of the "Monogenic Network of the Global Parkinson's Genetics Program".
For more than 15 years, the neurologist and laboratory physician PD Dr. Frank Leypoldt has been researching inflammations of the brain (encephalitis) from various perspectives, including in Hamburg, Barcelona and since 2014 at UKSH and Kiel University. His work has contributed significantly to the development of animal models, detection of viral triggers and improvement of diagnostics and therapy. His high-profile publications have addressed both the triggers, genetic risk factors, immunological mechanisms, and the care and therapy of these diseases, which were often previously unrecognized or recognized late.
Leypoldt is board member and organizer of the German Network for Research on Autoimmune Encephalitis GENERATE e.V. Since 2019, he has been spokesperson for the national research network CONNECT-GENERATE, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The physician-scientist has given more than 180 national and international teaching and training lectures, published more than 130 scientific papers, is a member of various professional societies and part of the editorial board of the renowned neuroimmunological journal Neurology N2. He is involved in the preparation of national and international guidelines, advises the WHO, and is active in public relations and patient self-help.
Professor Stefan Rose-John is an internationally sought-after expert on the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). He was Professor of Biochemistry at the Medical Faculty of CKiel University and Director of the Biochemical Institute for more than 22 years. He retired in October 2022. The biochemist recognized the central importance of the messenger substance IL-6 in the inflammatory process more than 25 years ago and systematically researched its structure and mode of action. In 2001, he published in the renowned scientific journal Science the spatial structure with which IL-6 binds to one of its receptors, thus laying a foundation for further research. He was also the first to describe the proteolytic formation of a soluble IL-6 receptor and the resulting IL-6 trans-signaling pathway. He demonstrated that this pathway is critical for triggering chronic inflammation, whereas processes of cell renewal and normal protective immune responses are regulated via the classical signaling pathway. This discovery makes it possible to specifically inhibit only the pro-inflammatory signals of interleukin-6. Rose-John developed the designer protein sgp130Fc, which specifically blocks interleukin-6 trans signaling and thereby inhibits inflammation. Under the name olamkicept, a further development of the protein has already been tested in clinical trials in people with inflammatory bowel disease with extremely positive results.
Rose-John has been a member of the DFG Cluster of Excellence on Inflammation Research since its inception and founded Collaborative Research Center 877 "Proteolysis as a Regulatory Element of Pathophysiology" at CAU in 2010, which he has headed ever since. He is an elected member of the Hamburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and was awarded the Science Prize of the City of Kiel in 2005 and the Jacob Henle Medal of Göttingen University in 2019.
About the Cluster of Excellence PMI
The Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) is being funded from 2019 to 2025 through the German Excellence Strategy (ExStra). It succeeds the "Inflammation at Interfaces” Cluster, which was already funded in two periods of the Excellence Initiative (2007-2018). Around 300 members from eight institutions at four locations are involved: Kiel (Kiel University, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN)), Lübeck (University of Lübeck, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)), Plön (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology) and Borstel (Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center).
The goal is to translate interdisciplinary research findings on chronic inflammatory diseases of barrier organs to healthcare more intensively, as well as to fulfil previously unsatisfied needs of the patients. Three points are important in the context of successful treatment, and are therefore at the heart of PMI research: the early detection of chronic inflammatory diseases, the prediction of disease progression and complications, and the prediction of individual responses to treatment.