Despite tough times for science funding, the German government says it will invest €135 million in the country’s human genome research program.
At a time when Germany is struggling with the highest public deficit in its postwar history, it cannot be taken for granted that leading science projects receive adequate financial backing from the state.
But Federal Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn said in Berlin on Friday that research on the human genome was "of great importance for German innovation" and would remain a top priority for her department despite current budgetary constraints.
She said the National Genome Research Network, founded in 2001, had made good progress in promoting interdisciplinary cooperation in functional genome research and that this must continue. The National Genome Network, a body of research units from universities and biomedical companies, started working in 2001 and has yielded considerable results since, propelling Germany into the field of the world’s leading nations in human genome analysis.
Bulmahn added that scientists today know more about the role of single genes or groups of genes in causing allergies and diseases such as cancer as a result of the research.
"Over the next three years, the Research Ministry will allocate another €135 million to the national genome network," Bulmahn said. The money comes on top of €180 million Berlin has already invested in the program. The network has already applied for more than 80 patents and received 17 as a direct result of the research, and Bulmahn says it has developed 94 "concrete product ideas."
"The money will predominantly be used to find out how specific genes affect the outbreak of cardiovascular, neurological and environmental diseases. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to be able to diagnose these diseases early and reliably and then administer medication tailor made for the patient. "
Researchers greeted Bulmahn's announcement on Friday. "Research Minister Bulmahn pointed out that research on genome projects had already created hundreds of new jobs in Germany," Detlev Ganten, a scientist at Berlin’s Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, told Deutshe Welle. "This would continue as science departments and industry carried on pooling their efforts in this key sector."