Endowed professorship and laboratory unit for single cell analysis

The Dieter Morszeck Foundation supports the endowed professorship “Bioinformatics of Genomics and Systems Genetics” at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in conjunction with a laboratory unit for single-cell analyses. The aim is to advance the development of methods in the promising research field of single-cell analyses and thus learn to understand the differences in molecular biology from tumor cell to tumor cell.

Particular attention is paid to bioinformatic analysis methods in order to gain new insights into the molecular heterogeneity of tumors. A better understanding of these mechanisms is essential in order to be able to predict the success of the therapy and adapt it if necessary.

Today, we not only distinguish between approximately 250 different forms of cancer, but also differences between tumors of the same type in different patients and within a single tumor in an individual patient. In order to predict how a tumor will respond to a specific therapy, the causes of these differences need to be better understood. Thanks to the recently developed techniques of single cell analysis, a revolutionary advance is opening up. This methodology makes it possible to investigate not only differences from tumor to tumor, but also at the cellular level. In particular, particularly aggressive and resistant cells that can lead to recurrence or metastases can be examined more closely. In the long term, these findings could support the development of more effective therapies.

The endowed professorship is doing pioneering work in the development of bioinformatic methods for decoding cellular heterogeneity. Multiomics single-cell tests are analyzed and genetic variations are linked to single-cell data. The team is a pioneer in the application of machine learning in genomics. Since 2021, the DKFZ has had the MIBIScope system, a novel imaging technique that enables the spatial visualization of proteins and other cellular structures in human tissues, financed by foundation funds. This groundbreaking technology makes it possible to recognize individual cells and determine their molecular properties with unprecedented accuracy. The AI-based analysis of this multi-layered data can provide new biological insights to further develop and individualize therapeutic approaches.