Vision & Idea
The iBLOOD IDEA
The blood system can arguably be considered as one of the best model organs for studying basic biological principles, bridging molecular-, cellular-, tissue-, inter-organ- and temporal levels of analysis. This is primarily because the blood is a “liquid organ” which facilitates relatively easy sampling of all stages of hematopoiesis, from mature blood cells in the periphery, through to stem and progenitor cells in the bone marrow. The ability to readily isolate live blood cells and blood products from normal and diseased individuals and subsequently employ them in molecular and functional assays, has meant that the hematopoietic system has frequently been used as a pioneering model to uncover important, broadly applicable biological phenomena – from the regulation of gene expression at the globin loci through to the cancer stem cell concept. Results based on fundamental research can be quickly translated into the clinical arena.
The recent rise of cellular therapies with genetically modified blood cells may transform modern medicine. Such ground-breaking progress has only been possible due to the concerted efforts of clinical and experimental researchers working alongside colleagues with specialized knowledge spanning a wide range of fields. Our vision for iBLOOD is to build on the exceptional critical mass of basic and clinical hematology research across all the institutions in the Heidelberg biomedical research arena. We will strengthen the pre-existing grassroots hematology community that already spans multiple Heidelberg University and University-associated institutions. The close links between clinical and basic research colleagues also provide exceptional opportunities for reverse translational research. One aim is to create a hub that actively attracts additional colleagues from across the natural sciences disciplines into blood associated research.
The interdisciplinary nature of iBLOOD will enable groundbreaking research that may initiate the next generation of research approaches. We thus envisage that iBLOOD will help cement Heidelberg as an internationally-renowned center for hematology-focused research. By integrating all institutions at the HMLS campus, we will create a collaborative network that provides the critical mass of interdisciplinary expertise, technology and resources that are necessary to perform studies that will help define the field during the next decade, and beyond.
There has been a long tradition of excellence in Hematology at the University of Heidelberg. Over the course of the last 15 years, both basic and clinical hematology-focused research has been progressively strengthened in Heidelberg via the external recruitment of a number of internationally renowned investigators and the ongoing seeding of junior research groups, several of which have subsequently emerged as new national and international leaders in the field.
From HeLeNe to iBLOOD
We envision that iBLOOD will be the successor of HeLeNe. Whereas HeLeNe is predominantly focused on malignant hematopoiesis, iBLOOD will have a much broader scope, and, in addition, also encompass work on non-malignant hematologic diseases, and research that uses the blood system as a model to address fundamental questions that are the focus of Heidelberg faculty who have not yet previously considered working in this area.