Monday 11

Responsible research can be excellent: NRW Innovation Award 2015

Posted by Bonn Science Shop on 11 Apr 2016

Excellent and responsible research characterized by both social and practical relevance

Is Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) only a freaky idea, born in Brussels, and made for researchers who have loads of time to spend? Or more serious: Are we successful at involving different stakeholders in the debate on emerging technologies? How and at what stage of the research process should they be involved? These questions are a core part of the European challenge of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Photo: MIWF/Reiner Zensen

As if to answer them, end of February North-Rhine Westphalia’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, Ms Svenja Schulze, has awarded four excellent researchers with the Innovation Award 2015 and by this underlined that the idea of RRI, means a responsible research that anticipates and reflects stakeholders’ needs and societal values, can lead to meaningful change and also bring excellent research with great recognition.

The Innovation Award

This year the most important research award in the category Innovation was given to Prof. Jürgen Wolf (Innovation, University of Cologne). "For real progress, it needs people who have the courage to break new ground," said the Minister.

The Cologne physician Prof. Jürgen Wolf and his team did break new ground, not only scientifically. They included a variety of stakeholders in their work: researchers, including clinical researchers, patients, hospitals, and insurance companies to develop personalized therapies for cancer patients. Tailored treatments based on genetic tests lead more often, particularly in patients with lung cancer, to a higher life expectancy. Together with his colleague Prof. Reinhard Büttner, the head of the Center for Integrated Oncology at the University Hospital of Cologne (CIO) he founded the "Network Genomic Medicine (NDA)" - a group of more than 250 clinics and medical practices. Through the NDA the Cologne experts receive more than 5,000 tissue samples per year from lung cancer patients from Germany.

The pathological molecular diagnostics is provided to patients and cooperation partners regardless of residence or therapeutic location. The diagnosis is supplemented with a provision of a comprehensive offer for personalized trials, in order to offer participation in a clinical trial to as many patients as possible who have detected therapeutically relevant mutations. Through these tailored treatments side effects of cancer therapies are less physical demanding and the chance to survive lung cancer increases. Personalized therapy can now almost nationwide reach patients. In the clinical-scientific and health policy landscape in Germany, the NDA is a unique feature. Today the NGM operates nationwide and is targeting a demographic coverage in Germany.

In addition patients with questions about their disease or their current therapy are explicitly asked to contact the NGM for a second opinion. The Network for Genomic Medicine also offers consultancy when patients would like to know if for them a personalized treatment approach or immunotherapy can be considered.

Awards like the Innovation Award NRW are important to bring to the open the benefits and success of responsible research and innovation processes. "With the Innovation Award we honor(ed) four scientists who have applied this courage (to break new ground) to bring us forward with their research in cutting-edge fields such as medicine, energy and food”, Minister Schulze outlined.

This year’s other innovation award for the category ‘Young Talents’ was given to Stephan Binder and Georg Schaumann (Forschungszentrum Jülich) and the Honour Prize was given to Prof. Robert Schlögl (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Muelheim Ruhr). The Innovation Award NRW is endowed with 150,000 euros over all three categories. It is the most lucrative award of its kind in Germany right after the Future Prize awarded by the Federal President.


Network Genomic Medicine
University Hospital of Cologne
Bed House E. 0.010 a/b
Kerpener Str. 62
D – 50937 Cologne
+49 221 478-96532

See the original press release (in German)

Translated and adapted by Norbert Steinhaus

Norbert Steinhaus works on RRI Tools at the Bonn Science Shopthe RRI Tools Hub coordinator for Germany

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