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Infection and Cancer

Among the rapidly expanding field of biomedical research, the Foundation Biomed will focus on two important types of disease that show remarkable similarities in their molecular features: infections and cancer.

The incidence of treatment-resistant infections is increasing world-wide, and is accompanied by spiralling costs for the development of new antibiotics and virostatic drugs. The obvious discrepancy between the rise in infections caused by resistant pathogens on one hand, and the decline in the development of new antibiotics on the other is already prompting some cautionary voices to warn of an impending antibiotics crisis. The WHO also considers the increase in resistant pathogens to be one of the biggest health threats facing humanity.

In the case of cancer, the problems are of a different nature, but no less urgent, because the risk of developing cancer is increasing worldwide. The WHO predicts a 70% increase over the next two decades, partly due to the increase in life-expectancy. Here the close interrelationships between infections and cancer are of particular interest to us. In 2008 alone, two million new cancer cases were caused by infections. Cervical cancer for instance is caused by papilloma virus and one of the most common types of cancer, gastric carcinoma, is caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Recently, the potential involvement of Chlamydia in the development of ovarian cancer has become a focus of our research as well.

Despite the often advanced health care systems and ultramodern medical technology, humanity faces a grave challenge. Until now, we have been mostly powerless in the face of newly emerging multi resistant pathogens. Treatment of aggressive cancers on the other hand is all too frequently restricted to a prolongation of suffering through radio- and chemotherapy, at the price of severe side-effects.

A primary goal of the Foundation Biomed is to employ innovative approaches to fight the threats posed by infections and cancer. Reaching this goal requires the application of ultra-modern technologies, such as high-throughput characterization of human gene function and illumination of the human genome with its individual characteristics and changes that occur during the course of life.