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Copyright by LAGeSo Berlin, Photo: D. Laessig


Berlin Research Prize 2021 "Alternatives to animal experiments" to the Charité team

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Copyright by LAGeSo Berlin, Photo: D. Laessig
The three award winners (from left to right): Prof. Dr. Josef Köhrle, Caroline Frädrich and Dr. Kostja Renko.

A research project by the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has been awarded the Berlin State Prize for promoting research into alternative and supplementary methods for animal experiments in research and teaching. The award, which is endowed with a total of 30,000 euros this year, is coordinated by the State Office for Health and Social Affairs (LAGeSo) and supported by the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa).

A working group led by doctoral student Caroline Frädrich and senior professor Dr. Josef Köhrle from the Institute for Experimental Endocrinology at the Charité Campus Mitte and Dr. Kostja Renko, visiting scientist at the Charité and currently employed in the Department of Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET at the BfR.

Störungen des Schilddrüsenhormonsystems zählen zu den häufigsten therapierbaren Erkrankungen, deren Ursachen sehr vielfältig sind. Mit dem prämierten Projekt „Etablierung einer versatilen High Throughput Screening-Plattform zur Identifizierung endokriner Disruptoren auf Basis der Sandell-Kolthoff-Reaktion“ hat das Forschungsteam eine Methode zur automatisierten Prüfung von Substanzen entwickelt, die die lokale Wirkung von Schilddrüsenhormonen beeinträchtigen und damit unter anderem Gehirnentwicklung, Wachstum und Stoffwechsel bei Mensch und Tier beeinflussen.

Disorders of the thyroid hormone system are among the most common treatable diseases, the causes of which are very diverse. With the award-winning project "Establishment of a versatile high-throughput screening platform for identifying endocrine disruptors based on the Sandell-Kolthoff reaction", the research team has developed a method for the automated testing of substances that impair the local effect of thyroid hormones and thus, among other things, brain development , growth and metabolism in humans and animals.

Until now, such tests have relied on animal experiments. High-throughput driving in combination with more complex models such as organoids and organ-on-a-chip approaches, on the other hand, open up the prospect of improving the scientific basis for chemical evaluation and significantly reducing the number of animal experiments. “The in vitro methods we have developed using human functional proteins make it possible to identify and select potentially harmful substances quickly, reliably and in an automated manner. This would reduce or partially replace the number of tests of the hormone system in intact organisms that would ultimately still be necessary," explains senior professor Köhrle. Award winner Frädrich adds: “In our everyday life we ​​are confronted with several thousand substances whose effects on the human body and the thyroid hormone system we do not know. Our test system provides a tool to screen these substances without resorting to conventional animal experimental methods. These are studies that are highly topical, not least against the background of the European Green Deal Non-Toxic Environment.” Methods such as the one that has now been awarded can make a significant contribution to reducing the number of animal experiments required in accordance with the 3R principle.

The close cooperation with the team of the screening unit of the Leibniz Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMP), headed by Dr. Jens von Kries significantly. The research work is currently funded by multi-year project funding in the Horizon 2020 program of the EU (ATHENA) and a project of the Transregio-SFB "Locotact" of the German Research Foundation (DFG). In developing the method, the team was also supported by the Charité 3R funding line "Adding 3R Value", the Berlin School of Integrative Oncology (BSIO) and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH Spark).

Berlin Research Prize “Alternatives to Animal Experiments”
Since 2011, the research prize has been awarded every two years by LAGeSo for projects in Berlin and Brandenburg that contribute to avoiding or reducing the use of laboratory animals. It is awarded by the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa) and is intended to promote broad application in academic and industrial research. Projects led by the Charité have already received awards in 2011, 2017 and 2019.


Link to a video in which the award winners explain their projects

Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination

Institute for Experimental Endocrinology at the Charité

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment


Dr. Julia Biederlack

Coordination Communication and Public RelationsCharité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Postal address: Charitéplatz 1 10117  Berlin

Campus / internal address:Reinhardtstr. 58 | 10117 Berlin

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