In December, the Einstein Foundation Berlin’s Executive Board approved funding for Oya Cingöz and Christoph Sander, the first researchers to participate in its new Einstein Starting Researcher program. The scheme makes it possible for Berlin universities to recruit or retain outstanding researchers who are on a pathway to professorship for up to four years. The go-ahead was also given to two Einstein Visiting Fellows: Wonwoo Nam becomes the first Korean researcher to receive Einstein funding; Zoltàn Molnar will continue to receive support for two more years. Historian Ida Toth will be awarded funding through the Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellow program. Applications were also approved for three Einstein Guest Researchers from Turkey who are at risk or whose academic freedom is constrained in their home country. And following a successful interim assessment, the Einstein Center 3R (Replace, Reduce, Refine) has been granted funding for a second term.
Einstein Center 3R
The aim of the Einstein Center 3R is to develop animal-free approaches to creating new treatments for human diseases that also improve the transferability of laboratory research to patients. The center brings together expertise from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Charité), Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin) as well as Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) and was created in 2021 in close cooperation with the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité, the Max Delbrück Center, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). In line with William Russell and Rex Burch’s 3R principle, the center uses research, education, and communication to consider ways to substitute animal experiments with alternatives (replace), minimize the number of animals used in experiments (reduce), and ease the amount of stress put on animals (refine). Following a successful interim assessment, the center has been granted funding for a further two and a half years.
Einstein Starting Researcher
After completing her PhD in Boston and a postdoc in New York, Oya Cingöz came to the RKI in 2018, where she researches the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other retroviruses. Aided by Christian Drosten, she will now put one of virology’s basic theories to the test as an Einstein Starting Researcher at Charité. Cingöz has discovered that retroviruses do not need DNA from the host’s nucleus for gene expression as previously thought: They appear to also be able to express genes directly from their own RNA genome. This finding could have significant implications, e.g. for the immune responses of people exposed to HIV and the development of retroviral vaccines, which will be further investigated and studied as part of this project.
Following a PhD in the History of Science at TU Berlin, Christoph Sander held postdoctoral positions in Berlin and Rome. At HU Berlin, he will now research how scientific literature was read before the 19th century and how the works in question were annotated. His research will be based on digitalized works housed at the Staatsbibliothek Berlin (Berlin State Library) that were printed in Europe before 1800. One of the aims of this digital humanities project is to find out whether any patterns exist in the annotations, how these have changed over time, and what they can tell us about changes in reading habits and the way the subject matter is understood.
Einstein Visiting Fellows
Wonwoo Nam is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Nanoscience at EWHA Womans University in Seoul. Nam will be conducting a project at HU Berlin together with Kallol Ray titled “Developing Green Catalytic Systems Utilizing Bioinspired Metal Catalysts.” It focuses on metalloenzymes, special proteins that contain transition metals such as iron or manganese and can thus react with oxygen. Inspired by natural processes, the project will investigate how metalloenzymes can be used in synthetic photosynthesis. This could help design industrial processes that are more energy efficient or improve sustainable energy generation. The project is based at the “Unifying Systems in Catalysis (UniSysCat)” Cluster of Excellence.
Zoltàn Molnar is a Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at the University of Oxford who has been an Einstein Visiting Fellow at Charité since 2020. Together with Britta Eickholt’s research group, he works at the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence studying the PTEN gene, deficiencies of which are being linked to the development of autism and epilepsy. Following the success of the initial funding phase, Molnar’s final two years on the project will be spent researching whether impaired brain development caused by a defective PTEN gene can be reversed and at which developmental stage this may be possible. These experiments will thus provide insights with a direct therapeutic benefit for patients.
Einstein Guest Researchers
The Board has approved funding for three researchers from Turkey as part of its Academic Freedom program. The Einstein Guest Researchers’ names and projects will not be disclosed for reasons of safety and at the recipients’ request.
Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellow
Back in November, the Board of Directors of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) approved funding for Ida Toth as a new Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellow. The historian and Byzantine researcher lectures at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of History and its Faculty of Classics. Ida Toth will begin a project at FU Berlin with Jutta Eming called “The Seven Sages of Rome Revisited: Striving for an Alternative Literary History,” which focuses on TheSeven Sages of Rome, a collection of over 100 manuscripts that existed in multiple versions from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and was widely distributed in Europe and the Middle East. It is thus a unique object for research in that it presents a story cycle that can be studied from a global perspective. Ida Toth and Jutta Eming are particularly interested in how the work’s core motifs – wisdom, power, and gender roles – change across various cultural adaptations and perceptions.
The Einstein Foundation Berlin is an independent, not-for-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 funded more than 200 researchers, including three Nobel laureates, over 70 projects, and eight Einstein Centers.