„I want to contribute to our offering the best conditions to the best brains. Students, physicians, and top-level scientists from all over the world are to have the opportunity to engage in outstanding and internationally visible translational research at the BIH. This will push forward not only biomedical research in Germany, but also Berlin as a science and research location.”
Johanna Quandt, Founder of Stiftung Charité
Max Rubner belonged to the golden generation of scientists at the Charité, which today is associated with names such as Rudolf Virchow, Hermann von Helmholtz, Robert Koch, Paul Langerhans, Paul Ehrlich and Emil von Behring. In this circle of outstanding researchers, Max Rubner is still regarded today as a pioneer in the fields of nutrition physiology, hygiene and occupational medicine. When the Federal Government and the State of Berlin drew up plans in 2011 and 2012 to bring together the strengths of the life sciences in the capital and increase their international visibility, the successes of this generation and the reputation of the Charité at the beginning of the 20th century were recalled. With the founding of the Berlin Institute of Health and the provision of additional public funds amounting to millions, hopes were and are still pinned on Berlin's ability to become a globally leading location for the life sciences and medicine again.
It was this thought that also inspired Max Rubner's granddaughter: Johanna Quandt (* 1926, † 2015). Even before the founding of the Berlin Institute of Health as the new association of the Charité and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine had been decided, the entrepreneur and founder of Stiftung Charité promised a grant of 40 million euros through the foundation in the event that the Federal Government and the State of Berlin decided to take this important step towards strengthening Berlin as a scientific location. With these funds, Stiftung Charité has put together a funding package to provide targeted support for the establishment of this beacon of the life sciences in Berlin: the Private Excellence Initiative Johanna Quandt. The focus was and still is on the support of excellent people in all phases of their scientific career.
After a good five years of the Private Excellence Initiative Johanna Quandt, we have now moved markedly closer to this goal. With Thomas Südhof, Edvard Moser and Brian Kobilka, three recent Nobel Prize laureates have established their own laboratories in Berlin. More than a dozen European Research Council grantees are among those receiving funding. In addition, funding programs have been set up that attract attention far beyond Berlin's borders, such as the Einstein BIH Visiting Fellows or the Clinical Fellows. Other highly successful programs have been taken up by other institutions around Germany such as the Clinician Scientists or the Johanna Quandt Professorships. Yet, the most impressive proof of the impact that Johanna Quandt's Private Excellence Initiative has had is the funded scientists with their different profiles and projects. Their minds are already enriching the life sciences in Berlin today. Their ideas point to the future. Their faces represent a new departure.
The online portal FACES gathers some of these faces and gives a voice to the various grantees of the initiative. We have paid particular attention to showing you how diverse the faces and stories behind Berlin’s incredibly innovative and exciting research projects are. Just as the Private Excellence Initiative Johanna Quandt has not yet been completed, FACES is continuously being expanded to include new voices and faces. It is therefore worth visiting us regularly. But now we hope you enjoy reading the reports, interviews and short portraits!
Dr. Jörg Appelhans and Prof. Dr. E. Jürgen Zöllner
Executive Board of Stiftung Charité