Mike Sander appointed to lead Max Delbrück C.

Mike Sander

Photo: Mike Sander has been chosen to direct the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC).
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Credit: Peter Himsel/MDC

On November 1, 2022, Professor Mike Sander will assume the position of Scientific Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine at the Helmholtz Society (MDC). The MDC Supervisory Board formally appointed her to the position on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The MDC, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is one of five health centers of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. World-renowned researcher and expert science director Mike Sander will succeed Professor Thomas Sommer, who has run the Medical Research Center on an interim basis since 2019. This will make Sander the first woman to head a Helmholtz Health Centre.

“MDC has distinguished itself as a world-renowned center for highly innovative biomedical research,” says Mike Sander. “Working at MDC lays the foundation for better medicine in the future. MDC provides an outstanding environment for research and attracts talent from around the world. I had the opportunity to experience this firsthand as a visiting professor at MDC. As Scientific Director, my goal will be to advance MDC’s role as a leading center for medical research vitality and deepening partnerships with other institutions in Berlin and beyond, so that our discoveries can quickly be converted into medical innovations.” Sander emphasizes that “medical innovation needs strong basic science, clinical science and industry partners – components that are all part of Berlin’s vibrant biomedical ecosystem,” she points out. “The Berlin region is developing into a thriving center for pharmaceuticals in biotechnology and I see the Center for Drug Development as the main driver of innovation in this landscape. I very much look forward to working with all stakeholders across Berlin.”

New treatment methods for diabetes

Mike Sander’s research focuses on identifying new therapeutic approaches to diabetes. To this end, Sander studies the molecular mechanisms that underlie the formation and function of the various cell types in the pancreas, particularly insulin-producing beta cells. Its goal is to identify strategies for beta cell replacement in diabetes using human pluripotent stem cell-derived beta cells.

Since 2012, Sander has served as Director of the Pediatric Diabetes Research Center at the University of California, San Diego (University of California, San Diego), where she is also a professor in the departments of pediatrics and cellular and molecular medicine. In Berlin, Mike Sander will be appointed Professor at Charité – Universitätsmedizin.

German Research Minister: An outstanding scientist with international experience

“Mike Sander is an eminent scientist with a proven track record of innovation in biomedical research,” he says. Bettina Stark Watzinger, Germany Federal Minister of Education and Research. “I am delighted that we were able to bring her back to Germany after so many years in the United States and win her as the new Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center. It demonstrates Berlin’s attractiveness as a center for biomedical research. As a scientist and administrator, Professor Sander is the perfect choice for the Medical Research Center with its mission to improve human health through research. Transformative biomedicine. The presence of a female leader is an important indication. The appointment of Professor Sander represents a major asset for German research.”

Berlin Senator for Higher Education and Research, Health, Long-Term Care and Gender Equality, Ulrike Gote, He says: “At Professor Mike Sander, the Max Delbrück Center has acquired an internationally acclaimed scientist as its new scientific director. I warmly welcome her to the City of Science and Healthcare Berlin. Professor Sander’s expertise and experience provide the perfect backdrop for the future development of MDC and for increasing the international visibility of the vibrant life sciences community. At the MDC and in Berlin. As the senator responsible for higher education, research and gender equality, I am delighted to see a woman at the helm of the Helmholtz Health Center.”

Wiestler: The Helmholtz Association will benefit greatly

“I got to know Mike Sander as an expert in diabetes and stem cells when she was a visiting professor at the CDC,” Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Society. With her high scientific standing and international experience, she is the ideal person to determine the future direction of MDC as Scientific Director and Chairman of the Board. With Professor Sander, we are gaining an excellent scientist whose expertise will be of enormous benefit to the Helmholtz Society. A critical area of ​​focus is the development of precision medicine approaches. MDC is at the forefront of advanced research in this important field. I look forward to working with Professor Sander and a lively exchange of ideas.”

About Mike Sander

Mike Sander, from Göttingen, is 54 years old. After graduating with a medical degree from Heidelberg University Medical School in 1994, she did research at the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to moving to UCSD in 2008, she held faculty positions at Hamburg Medical School and the University of California, Irvine. She is an expert in insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, and has nearly 30 years of experience in medicine and diabetes research.

Sander is an elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In addition, it is a member of two NIH consortia: the Human Island Research Network and the NIH Impact of Genomic Variation on Function Consortium, which seeks to identify the underlying mechanisms of gene regulation.

She is the recipient of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Grodsky Prize, the Albert Reynolds 2022 European Association for the Study of Diabetes Award, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award. Since 2019, Sander has been a visiting fellow for Einstein at the Berlin Institute of Health in the Charity (BIH).

More information

30 years MDC

Sander Lab & Publications at the University of California, San Diego


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jota cram
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jutta.kramm@mdc-berlin.de or presse@mdc-berlin.de

Max Delbrück Molecular Medicine Center (MDC)

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine of the Helmholtz Society (MDC) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a native of Berlin, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the MDC sites in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from nearly 60 countries analyze the human system—investigating the biological foundations of life from basic building blocks to systems-level mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic homeostasis of a cell, organ, or entire body, we can prevent and diagnose diseases early and halt their progression with personalized treatments. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. Therefore, MDC supports episodic creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin at its jointly run Center for Experimental and Clinical Research (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, today it employs 1,600 people and funds 90 percent of the German federal government and 10 percent of the state of Berlin.

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