Protein science unravels fundamental biological mechanisms and forms the basis for rapid advances in biomedicine and biotechnology. Thus, protein science stands at the heart of modern life sciences. In the future, protein science will operate more at the level of biological systems. To this end studies of proteins and manipulation of proteins at the atomic and molecular level must be integrated into the investigation of proteins in complexes and cellular protein networks and in an organismic level. Such an approach, which reaches up to the elucidation of protein function or dysfunction in various disease states will not only lead to a more profound understanding of biological processes but will also allow for I) the development of small molecules able to manipulate protein function in living cells, II) the discovery of proteins as targets and tools for medical research and intervention, and III) the engineering of proteins with novel functions for biotechnological and therapeutic applications. The Munich Center for integrated Protein Science (CIPSM) will bring together the leading research groups in protein research and technology across different faculties and institutions in Munich. CIPSM will promote research and education covering all facets of protein science and will help to establish Munich as a leading center in the life sciences. CIPSM will implement new junior and selected senior research groups in topical areas, with the aim to attract the best scientists on all levels. First-class graduate education will be offered closely linked to the research topics. Visiting professors will be hosted. CIPSM will provide services including teaching support, and will set up core facilities and manage knowledge transfer and public relations. CIPSM will give the best researchers more time and new opportunities for scientific activities and the financial support needed for costly, cutting-edge techniques. CIPSM will encompass six core research areas that are linked by joint research projects spanning the following six areas:
A) protein biophysics,
B) protein folding and transport,
C) protein structures and networks,
D) protein-nucleic acid interactions,
E) protein engineering and chemical biology, and
F) protein function and dysfunction in living organisms.
At the heart of CIPSM stands the desire to achieve a deeper understanding of biological processes at the molecular, cellular, and organismic level, which also allows for targeted intervention. This requires interactive research of groups from different disciplines, including chemistry and physics on one side, and biology and molecular medicine on the other. The key to fruitful interdisciplinary research will be to bring together a wide range of experimental expertise and know-how. The unifying theme is to understand proteins in their natural context at all levels of organization of life. The methodological spectrum of CIPSM ranges from single-molecule spectroscopy of proteins in cells, AFM analysis of protein machines on surfaces, analysis of protein folding and trafficking (areas A and B), to the synthesis of chemical “function modifiers” or small molecule proteomics tools (area E), engineering of proteins with novel functions (area E) and analysis of protein networks and their structures (area C), all the way to genetics and the use of model organisms (areas D and F). Thus, protein structure, function, and dysfunction can be analyzed in every aspect, and the results can be integrated into a coherent picture. Novel therapeutic targets and their medical intervention will be identified and explored. To fully establish and maintain Munich as a world-class Center for integrated protein science, CIPSM will concentrate on promoting research and education and on providing services.
We plan (I) to better integrate the various scientific activities in protein science that are scattered across the Munich region, (II) to recruit first-class faculty in emerging and complementary fields, and (III) to provide better conditions for top level research and advanced education at both Munich Universities and the involved institutions. The goal is to create a focal center for the Munich life science community. CIPSM will boost scientific collaborations beyond disciplines and location (e.g. via jointly employed PhD students and postdocs). Many existing research grant networks, including almost a dozen SFBs, will be connected and linked together by the Center. CIPSM will allow us to communicate the scientific results with a single strong voice. CIPSM will operate at the highest international level with respect to scientific excellence and independent financial support.
To reach this goal we plan to establish:
A PhD and postdoc pool to fund collaborative research between the researchers
Funding of six CIPSM research professorships
Matching funds to purchase cutting edge equipment
Support for new tenure track groups and new full professor positions
Finances to fund a number of lecturers to reduce the teaching load of researchers within the Center.
An important tool to create interdisciplinarity and to promote collaborative research in a bottom-up approach will be to foster direct exchange between researchers, PhD students, and postdocs, across disciplines and participating institutions. CIPSM will promote the needed exchange particularly through the organization of regular, interdisciplinary summer schools. Lunch seminars on the campuses both at the TUM and the LMU will be established to foster and organize joint projects. The participating research groups will also host students and postdocs from other groups of CIPSM for training. A guest professor program will be established, which will provide courses about timely topics.
In order to fund collaborative research, a major part of the program is devoted to creating a pool of positions to fund PhD and postdoctoral students to promote research between the groups. At least two members of CIPSM have to apply together to receive funding for joint projects performed by jointly supervised co-workers. If a PhD position or a post doctoral co-worker is granted, the project will receive additional capital to fund the consumables needed for the lab work.
To further stimulate interdisciplinary communication in a top-down approach, CIPSM will establish a monthly faculty club that stimulates discussion between the group leaders from the different campuses. The scientific basis for such a club exists already because many interdisciplinary projects are currently ongoing between the CIPSM members.
Another key issue in CIPSM is the quality management to ensure that the funds are given to excellent projects only. Here the 12 coordinators, representing the 6 key research areas, will function as an internal reviewing panel. Without their approval no research funding will be distributed.