Joint press release by Charité and the Einstein Foundation Berlin
A new platform for global health is being created within Berlin’s university medicine landscape in the form of the Charité Center for Global Health (CCGH). At its center is the Institute of International Health of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, formerly known as the Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health, which has been headed since the beginning of this year by Einstein Professor for Global Health, Prof. Beate Kampmann. The renowned expert in international child health will lead the CCGH with Prof. Christian Drosten, who heads Charité’s Institute of Virology, with both of them working together to sharpen its scientific focus and leverage the enormous potential in Berlin and beyond. The CCGH will be supported by the Global Engagement unit, which will serve as a focal point for global health activities at Charité and, in cooperation with the World Health Summit (WHS) and national and international partners, will pioneer and advance strategic global health initiatives. The Einstein Strategic Professorship program enables Berlin universities to recruit top international scientists. It is made possible by the Einstein Foundation Berlin through a generous donation by the Damp Stiftung.
Health must increasingly be understood in global terms – especially given that infectious agents do not stop at national borders. Be it pandemics, epidemics, wars, or the consequences of climate change, new and current challenges to the health of large segments of the population can only be met through international cooperation, new ideas, and global health research. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many actors in Germany had begun to get more involved in global health issues. The Berlin University Alliance (BUA), for example, identified global health as a key global challenge, naming it one of its “Grand Challenges.” In addition, Charité’s more than one hundred departments and institutes have a wide range of experience in global health research and practice. International forums for networking and the exchange of knowledge have emerged at the suggestion of Charité or in its ecosystem, including the World Health Summit (WHS), the German Alliance for Global Health Research (GLOHRA), and the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence.
It is time to bring together Berlin’s numerous initiatives and individual disciplines, says Prof. Kampmann, who has been teaching and researching at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as Professor of Pediatric Infection & Immunity for the past four and a half years. The international health expert also served as Director of The Vaccine Center at LSHTM, which develops new vaccines and evaluates their safety and efficacy. The clinician-scientist is now returning to Germany to reposition Charité’s Institute of International Health (formerly the Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health) as well as the field of global health in Berlin in general, while also aiming to use the German metropolis as a base for advancing global collaboration. “There are already strong research programs, international clinical partnerships, and many good approaches here – we want to bring together and intensify these efforts. Going forward, we will provide an umbrella at Charité for all those working on global health issues. Affiliated researchers and associated institutions as well as the Berlin University Alliance’s members and non-university institutions can also get involved,” says Prof. Kampmann. “Alongside networking and structural development measures, we will primarily focus on activities such as monitoring and combating infectious diseases around the world, including the role played by vaccines in these efforts as well as the field of pandemic preparedness – topics that we will address in a multidisciplinary manner and beyond the boundaries of the institute.” In addition to her work at Charité, Prof. Kampmann will remain affiliated with LSHTM. She will continue to direct research projects in Africa and the UK and will set up a partnership between Charité and LSHTM, one of the most influential institutions in the field of public health and infectious diseases. Clinical services provided by Charité’s Institute of International Health, such as travel medicine and the outpatient clinic for travelers returning home, will be continue to be managed by the same proven team under her new leadership.
Prof. Kampmann is one of the world’s leading researchers into childhood tuberculosis (TB) and vaccines to improve global health. She has demonstrated that Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a live anti-TB vaccine, not only protects against TB disease but also infection. For over twelve years, she has served as the Theme Leader for Vaccines & Immunity research at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia (MRC Unit The Gambia; part of LSHTM since 2018), overseeing all research activities in infant immunology, childhood TB, and molecular diagnostics. In addition to basic research into innate and acquired immune responses to infection and vaccination in pregnant women and infants, the clinician-scientist has in recent years conducted numerous clinical trials of novel vaccines, adjuvants, and administration modalities. The impact of her research and international advocacy has been far reaching. Her work, for example, has resulted in a 50 percent increase in the detection of childhood TB in The Gambia. The vaccination expert has also established a platform for immunization during pregnancy in the West African country as a tool to decrease neonatal morbidity and mortality. This is just one example of how vaccines – one of the most effective medical tools available – can help improve global health.
“In Prof. Kampmann, Charité is gaining an outstanding expert in international health who has extensive experience in translational research, in teaching and training, and in interdisciplinary work and intercultural exchange,” says Prof. Axel Radlach Pries, President of the WHS and Dean of Charité until December 31, 2022. “The newly created Charité Center for Global Health will strengthen and increase the visibility of Charité’s role and activities in this important field. Under the scientific leadership of Prof. Kampmann and Prof. Drosten, Charité will work with partner institutions across the globe to launch new initiatives and set new emphases. The goal is to assume greater responsibility, to forge strong partnerships in the field of global health, and to advance collaboration and cooperation among science and policymakers as well as all other stakeholders.” Prof. Kampmann adds that it is essential is to engage in partnerships on equal footing, especially when working with colleagues from the Global South.
Going forward, Prof. Kampmann will continue her research at the MRC Unit The Gambia. She plans to incorporate the cooperation with the sub-Saharan partner site into her work at Charité and to facilitate the formation of new study partnerships. Over 80 scientists and support staff are currently part of her global research program that addresses immunization issues, such as through the conduct of clinical trials or by applying cutting-edge systems vaccinology tools. What immunization is appropriate at what time? What is the level of acceptance among the population? What can we learn about the developing immune system from vaccination studies? How does vaccination affect pregnancy? Pursuing answers to these questions is important to the researcher in order to enable the provision of evidence-based care to children across the globe. In addition, the internationally recognized expert has a strong track record of training young, primarily African, clinician-scientists, including mentoring them in their own clinical and scientific careers. To facilitate the international exchange of staff, PhD students, and research ideas, she has established an “open lab” approach in The Gambia, which she will also incorporate into her teaching and research at Charité. Facilitating bilateral exchange and international cooperation is an issue that is close to Prof. Kampmann’s heart: “In Germany the available programs for those seeking to build partnerships mostly rely on small-scale funding, and to date there are only a few partner sites outside the country – a structural weakness that we aim to address in incremental steps so as to become more competitive internationally in global health research.”
The appointment of Prof. Kampmann opens up a special opportunity at Charité and throughout Berlin: the chance to re-establish global health as an academic discipline at this scientific and research location. This is a discipline that is more necessary than ever in our current time characterized by international mobility, but which for historical reasons has barely developed in Germany. The Institute of International Health in the new Charité Center for Global Health now wants to be an “open house,” and this principle must be put into practice, according to Prof. Kampmann, who says: “I feel the dynamics are right. There is currently a new focus in this country and also within Europe, as evident in the global health strategies of Germany and the European Union. Equal partnerships and the cultivation of young talent in international health care have clearly moved to center stage.” Prof. Martin Rennert, Chair of the Executive Board of the Einstein Foundation Berlin, adds: “We are delighted that Charité, through the support of the Einstein Foundation, has succeeded in attracting one of the most renowned scientists in the field of global health to Berlin in order to further establish this important discipline in Germany and in Berlin.” By working closely with national and international actors – with institutions such as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), with various government ministries, with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHS, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and with the early career scientists’ association GLOHRA as well as the worldwide network of research funders GloPID-R – Berlin’s university medicine should be able to succeed in making a new start in the pursuit of global health. Sustainable collaboration in global health research, such as between clinical research, basic research, and systems biology, but also with non-medical disciplines such as the social sciences in Berlin, will help pave the way.
Short biography of Prof. Beate Kampmann
Beate Kampmann studied medicine in Cologne. She specialized in the field of infectious diseases and completed advanced training in pediatric and infectious disease medicine at the Royal College of Physicians in London in the early 1990s. This was followed by research stays in the United States, France, and South Africa, which eventually led her to Imperial College London. The clinician-scientist was named a Wellcome Trust Training Fellow in Clinical Tropical Medicine and later became a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow. In 2000, she obtained her postgraduate lecturing qualification with a PhD thesis on the human immune response to the TB pathogen. In mid-2010, Prof. Kampmann was appointed as Theme Leader for Vaccines & Immunity research at the MRC Unit The Gambia. As part of this role, she directs a comprehensive research program on pediatric infection and immunity in both the UK and Africa. In 2015, she was awarded the President’s Medal for Excellence in Research Supervision at Imperial College London. In 2018, after more than 25 years of service, Prof. Kampmann moved from Imperial College to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), where she became Professor in Pediatric Infection & Immunity and Director of The Vaccine Center. In 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British equivalent of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and was inducted as a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians. She remained an active member of the Imperial College’s pediatric consultant team during this time. She has led numerous projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Research and Innovation, the European Union, the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, and the Wellcome Trust. Prof. Kampmann’s main areas of research are childhood TB, HIV co-infection, and vaccinology. She and her team conduct laboratory and clinical studies to understand age-related immune responses to infection and vaccination. Over the last few years, she has led a number of studies in both UK and West Africa investigating the scientific and implementation challenges of maternal immunization. She is the Director of IMPRINT– the IMmunizing PRegnant women and INfants network, one of the 5 MRC-funded networks for vaccines – and is one of the organizers of the International Neonatal and Maternal Immunization Symposium (INMIS). On January 1, 2023, Prof. Kampmann took up a tenured W3 Professorship for Global Health at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and will head Charité’s Institute of International Health. She will also assume the scientific leadership of the newly created Charité Center for Global Health together with Prof. Christian Drosten, who heads Charité’s Institute of Virology.
About the Einstein Foundation Berlin
The Einstein Foundation Berlin is an independent, non-profit, science-led organization established as a foundation under civil law in 2009. It promotes international cutting-edge science and research across disciplines and institutions in and for Berlin. It has so far funded some 200 researchers — including three Nobel laureates — more than 70 projects, and seven Einstein Centers. The Einstein Foundation Berlin receives public funding from the State of Berlin, as well as support from private donors such as the Damp Stiftung. The Damp Stiftung was established by Dr. Walter Wübben, the former majority owner of the Klinikgruppe Damp, to fund medical research and teaching as well as social projects.
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Matt Birnholz, MDPeer