German state and federal governments agree on funding for a high-resolution microscopy centre in Heidelberg

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Leica and ZEISS will contribute a total sum of ten million Euros to the project


The letter of intent was signed today during an official ceremony on the campus of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg by representatives of the German government together with industry and foundation partners. The new centre for light and electron microscopy will be a unique service facility for the life sciences and unite cutting-edge equipment, experts and data analysis. The centre will be open to visiting scientists from all over the world as well as industry partners. It will make new technologies at EMBL available to foster a better understanding of the molecular basis of life and disease.

From left to right: Dr. Peter Fruhstorfer, General Manager of Life Sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific; Markus Lusser, President of Leica Microsystems; Justus Felix Wehmer, CEO of ZEISS Microscopy; Theresia Bauer, Minister of Research of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg; Dr. Georg Schuette, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Prof. Dr. Iain W. Mattaj, project leader of the imaging centre at EMBL; Christoph Boehringer, chairman of the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation; Dr. Jan Ellenberg, Head of the Cell Biology & Biophysics Unit at EMBL (in the background)

For over 40 years EMBL has performed fundamental research in the molecular life sciences. It presently hosts more than 85 interdisciplinary research groups at the main laboratory in Heidelberg and across five other sites in Europe. EMBL is one of the cradles of the current revolution in light and electron microscopy. The institute is financed by more than 20 member states.

“As a development centre for the combined use of state-of-the-art imaging technologies the planned Imaging Technology Centre will substantially increase the attractiveness of EMBL and Germany as a location for science and research for users worldwide. The strategic cooperation with leading optics manufacturers and local companies has been crucial in this respect,“ said Dr. Georg Schütte, state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

“To investigate biological processes in more detail and make them visible is an important step towards learning more about the central questions of life, such as for example how life develops from a single cell. The cutting-edge technology and relevant know-how in the new Imaging Technology Centre at EMBL will allow us to examine these processes in more detail,“ said Theresia Bauer, minister of research of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. “We will be able to build this centre thanks to a concerted effort by partners from science, industry and foundations as well as from the state and federal governments. The centre will be an important asset for Baden-Württemberg as a location for science and research and in particular for the extensive life science expertise in the Heidelberg area.“

Correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) – co-developed at EMBL – combines different microscopy techniques and allows scientists to examine a sample first under the light microscope before putting it under the electron microscope. Whereas the light microscope makes functional processes in living cells visible in the micrometre range, the electron microscope captures protein structures in the nanometre and Angstrom range. The combination of these two very different microscopy techniques enables scientists to bring together functional and structural information to gain new insights. This and other new microscopy techniques facilitate groundbreaking discoveries: using this technique EMBL researchers have, for example, been able to reconstruct for the first time how HIV drug resistance is formed and identified processes in the cell that can lead to infertility in mammals. Professor Iain Mattaj, Director General of EMBL adds: “New imaging technologies which were developed here at EMBL keep pushing the limits of what we can see – and understand.“

During the official signing ceremony in Heidelberg, Professor Mattaj and Dr. Jan Ellenberg, project leader of the imaging centre and head of the Cell Biology & Biophysics Unit at EMBL, presented the construction plans and the concept for the new Imaging Technology Centre (ITC) to representatives from government, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and partners from industry. “We can only advance our knowledge by bringing together the latest technologies and making them available to all scientists,“ said Ellenberg. “EMBL has a long-standing, excellent track record and a unique expertise in the imaging area. So Heidelberg is an obvious place to build a new imaging service centre.“

The Imaging Technology Centre will provide access to the latest technologies for scientists at EMBL as well as for up to 300 visiting scientists annually, well before they become commercially available. To facilitate this EMBL is cooperating with leading microscopy companies. Thermo Fisher Scientific, Leica and ZEISS will contribute a total sum of ten million Euros to the project. “We are happy to intensify our cooperation with EMBL and to support the construction of this pioneering new imaging facility,“ said Dr. Peter Fruhstorfer, General Manager of Life Sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Justus Felix Wehmer, CEO of ZEISS Microscopy and Markus Lusser, President of Leica in a mutual statement.

The new centre will cover a floor area of 4,500 square metres (5,960 square metres of gross floor area) and cost 45 million Euros. Ground-breaking is planned for summer 2018 and the Imaging Technology Centre is due to begin operations in 2020. The ITC will not only unite the best microscopes, experts and analysis techniques under one roof but also host a permanent exhibition which provides visitors with information about EMBL and the world of microscopy. “With the help of these new technologies we will be able to answer questions which have been puzzling scientists for years, the answers to which will be relevant to all of us,“ said Mattaj.

Tags: Confocal Microscopy, Correlative Microscopy, Electron and Ion Microscopy, Light Microscopy, Super-resolution Microscopy

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