In January 2002, the Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) establish the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit, a novel partnership in which a research team is jointly headed by cooperating principal investigators (PIs) from the EMBL and the Medical Faculty and composed of an international team of molecular research-oriented MDs, PhDs, PhD-students and technicians of both institutions.
The interdisciplinary cooperation combines the respective strength in medical science and know how, access to patients, and molecular life sciences know how to undertake basic disease-related research for the elucidation of biological mechanisms of diseases.
The first group is that of the founders of the MMPU, Andreas Kulozik from the Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg and Matthias Hentze from EMBL. They had previously collaborated successfully on RNA metabolism in blood diseases for many years so that the idea of pursuing basic research related to medicine and vice versa inspires them to this pilot project with the philosophy: From bench to bedsite – and back.
In 2004 the MMPU is reviewed by an external panel of international experts and is considered to be 'first rate, extremely impressive and clearly internationally competitive’. The success of this first MMPU group motivates an expansion of the MMPU to further strengthen the link between basic and translational research in molecular medicine.
In 2006 the MMPU is joined by three new groups: Marcus Mall and Carsten Schultz studying cystic fibrosis, Martina Muckenthaler and Matthias Hentze studying iron overload and deficiency diseases and Magnus von Knebel-Doeberitz and Peer Bork looking at the identification of cancer markers.
In 2007 a fifth group joins the MMPU: Heiko Runz and Rainer Pepperkok, studying the mechanisms of cellular cholesterol regulation. Andreas Kulozik and Matthias Hentze receive the Manfred Lautenschläger Research Prize of Heidelberg University for their successful work on diseases of RNA metabolism and for establishing the MMPU as a paradigm for the cooperation between clinical medicine and basic science.
In 2011 the MMPU moves into common space provided by the University of Heidelberg, the Otto-Meyerhof-Zentrum (OMZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 350. Three further groups join the MMPU: Anne-Claude Gavin and Anthony Ho study early warning signals of aging, John Briggs and Hans-Georg Kräusslich look how to interfere with the assembly and maturation of infectious HIV-1, and Paul Heppenstall and Rohini Kuner search for molecular mediators of chronic pain.
In 2012 MMPU’s directors Andreas Kulozik and Matthias Hentze acquire funds for a new initiative, the Heidelberg Research Center for Molecular Medicine (HRCMM), an instrument of the Excellence Initiative of Heidelberg University, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) DFG. From 2013 – 2017 the HRCMM assigns different fellowship opportunities for outstanding physicians or MD students who wish to pursue careers in translational medicine. The fellowships aim at providing exceptional career development opportunities in top-level international research.
The appointees can be viewed here.
In 2013 Jan Siemens joined Rohini Kuner and Paul Heppenstall to head the group Chronic Pain.
In 2014 Heiko Runz moved to the USA and his and Rainer Pepperkok’s Group Cholesterol Regulation left the MMPU.
With Jan Korbel and Andreas Kulozik joining for the new MMPU Group Molecular Pediatric Oncology in October 2014 the Partnership is back to eight groups altogether.
In June 2015 the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg renewed the successful Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU) agreement until 2025. The two complementary research institutions continue to share data and resources for ten more years with the aim to achieve scientific and medical breakthroughs that each individually may not be able to make.
With Wolfgang Huber and Sascha Dietrich joining for the new MMPU Group Systems Medicine for Cancer Drugs in October 2016, the Partnership grows to nine groups.
At present, more than 120 international researchers, physicians and technicians from five different University institutes and five different EMBL Units work in nine groups on important molecular medicine topics, usually focussing on common diseases.
Most research activities are financed by grant support from several research agencies.