The German physician Maike Sander becomes Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin Buch. The pediatrician currently teaching at the University of California in San Diego with a focus on research into type 1 diabetes was appointed by the Supervisory Board for this position and also as future CEO, the MDC announced on Friday.

Sander will lead the MDC from November 1 of this year. The appointment was made on Thursday by the MDC’s supervisory board. The institution belongs to the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers and will be 30 years old this year. It emerged in 1992 from the Central Institute for Molecular Biology, the Central Institute for Cancer Research and the Central Institute for Cardiovascular Research of the GDR.

Sander, who was already a guest professor at the MDC and will also take on a professorship at the Charité University Medicine, succeeds the cell biologist and biochemist Thomas Sommer, who is currently acting as head of the MDC for the second time since Martin Lohse resigned in 2019.

This will be the first time a woman will head one of the Helmholtz health centers.

“As Scientific Director, it will be my goal to further strengthen the role of the MDC as a leading center in biomedicine and also to further deepen our close partnerships, especially in Berlin, so that our discoveries can be quickly translated into therapies,” says Sander quoted in the statement. Modern biomedicine thrives on close cooperation and lively exchange between basic research, clinics and industry. All of this is available in the health city of Berlin. The MDC sees them as a “key driver of innovation”.

As a scientist, Sander investigates the molecular processes underlying the formation and function of various cell types in the pancreas, in particular the insulin-producing beta cells. She works with pluripotent stem cells, which are intended to replace dead beta cells in type 1 diabetes. These approaches are also being explored elsewhere. There are already a few patients who have been cured of type 1 diabetes using stem cells as part of initial studies. So far, recipients have had to take drugs that suppress the immune system, since the stem cells and the pancreatic cells that develop from them are not endogenous cells and would otherwise be rejected. Stem cells obtained from the patient themselves and developed accordingly could possibly be a solution in the future.

Sander studied in Heidelberg and has been a professor in San Diego since 2012.