First Max Planck Partner Institute in China

Max Planck Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Establish Joint Institute in the Field of Theoretical Biology

November 08, 2004

An agreement on the establishment of a "MPG/CAS Partner Institute for Computational Biology" was signed by the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Prof. Lu Yongxiang, and the President of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG), Prof. Peter Gruss, on 8 November 2004 in Berlin during the festivities marking the 30th anniversary of their cooperation. The Partner Institute is to be set up on the campus of the Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences (SIBS) of the CAS in Shanghai, a multi- and interdisciplinary research center in the life sciences. During the five-year start- up phase the CAS will assume two thirds of the required costs while project funding from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research will account for the remaining one-third totaling 2.5 million euros. The new research institute will not only complement the wide range of experimental topics at the SIBS in Shanghai, but also a number of ongoing projects at Max Planck Institutes in Germany through main components in theoretical biology.

The new Partner Institute will enrich the experimental activities of both organizations in the field of molecular biology and deal primarily with theoretical aspects in the biosciences that come under the term "Computational Biology". The development of theoretical methods and the modeling of systems in molecular biology make major contributions to understanding experimental findings and predicting test results. Reproducing complex processes in molecular networks and cell systems with the help of computer aided calculation methods will be of immediate interest. Simulating complex cellular processes can lead to a deeper understanding of processes in human organs and ultimately to the development of new medications.

The Partner Institute is going to work in a number of disciplines because only the combination of various disciplines in the life science, physics, and computer sciences will enable a better understanding of complex biological systems and facilitate the combining of compiled system-biological approaches with experiments. Due to the proximity to the experimental bioscience institutes in Shanghai and close ties to a number of Max Planck Institutes, the models could be tested and evaluated immediately. The Institute for Computational Biology will round off and complement research activities at the MPG and the CAS. By establishing a Partner Institute both organizations are venturing into new territory and will contribute their existing research competencies for the benefit of both parties.

Founding a joint institute is a new step for both research organizations in their 30-year history of scientific cooperation. The Partner Institute will most likely consist of three departments and several Junior Research Groups and will be integrated legally and administratively speaking into the Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences. At the same time the Partner Institute will also reflect main structural qualities of a Max Planck Institute, especially with regard to practices for ensuring scientific quality. The heads of the new Institute are to be appointed External Scientific Members of the Max Planck Society thus guaranteeing close ties to the CAS and the cooperating MPS institutes. One important task of the Partner Institute will be to train young researchers.

The positions for head of the Partner Institute have been advertised in international journals. A joint commission of experts that has been monitoring the founding and start-up phases of the Partner Institute will select the heads from among the applicants during the Shanghai symposium scheduled to take place in December 2004. For the MPG and the CAS, establishing this research institute is a way to strengthen their own research output and intensify bilateral ties. This initiative offers German and Chinese universities additional starting points for cooperation and exchanges among scientists.

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