PYLOTUM: New TUM overseas lab opens in Asia

TUM expands German-Chinese stomach cancer research partnership

Prof. Markus Gerhard (left) and his collegue Prof. Pan Kai Feng of the Peking University Health Science Center at the opening ceremony in Peking. (Image: M. Gerhard / TUM)
Prof. Markus Gerhard (left) and his collegue Prof. Pan Kai Feng of the Peking University Health Science Center at the opening ceremony in Peking. (Image: M. Gerhard / TUM)

Research news

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is expanding its network in Asia and is simultaneously focusing on research hubs that can leverage mutually complementary expertise to create a unique position. Under one such flagship project, TUM and Peking University have bundled their stomach cancer research efforts in a joint laboratory, which opened on October 10. Here, an international team of scientists will investigate diagnosis and treatment options for this form of cancer.

Stomach cancer is the world’s third deadliest type of cancer. For over a decade, researchers from TUM and Peking University have been studying this disease in Linqu County in the north-east of China, where an unusually high number of stomach cancer cases has been identified. The researchers involved will soon be able to collaborate in an institutional setting at the new “Joint Key Laboratory (JKL) for carcinomas of the upper gastrointestinal tract” in China.

Targeting quicker diagnosis

One of the major risk factors associated with this type of cancer is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is found in the stomach. While over 50 percent of the world’s population is infected with the pathogen, only a fraction, however, will ever develop stomach cancer or its preliminary stages.

“We are detecting the cancer far too late. We need better diagnosis methods and biomarkers so that we can treat the infection before cancer has a chance to develop,” explains Prof. Markus Gerhard of the Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene at TUM. He and his colleague Prof. Pan Kai Feng from Peking University are in charge of the new “PYLOTUM” research project.

“The Technical University of Munich has the expertise, world-leading minds and the track record in stomach cancer to be the ideal partner for Peking University Health Science Center We believe that by working together, we can achieve more than we can alone, and we are certain this partnership will finally benefit the health of the people in both countries and hopefully around the world”, commented Prof. Zhan Qimin, President of the Peking University Health Science Center (PKUHSC) and Executive Vice President of Peking University.

Large-scale patient studies

The search for suitable markers calls for studies with large numbers of patients, hence the decision in favor of Linqu County. The first major research project is to be a ten-year clinical study with around 20,000 participants. It will involve endoscopic screening of subjects infected with Helicobacter pylori. The ultra-modern analytics lab has been designed to examine large volumes of medical material in a short space of time. Training and exchange programs will be organized so that the Chinese physicians in Linqu County can study and then apply the methods in line with best international practice. To establish a broad and comparative knowledge base, TUM is carrying out complementary studies in regions with different ethnic backgrounds.

The importance of China as a partner

The new research project at one of China’s top universities aligns with TUM’s internationalization strategy, which has forged a strong contact network in Asia through engagements such as its offshore campus TUM Asia in Singapore and a liaison office in Beijing. TUM is therefore acknowledging the growing international importance of China in the areas of science, medicine and innovation. Chinese students already represent the largest group of overseas students at TUM.

More information

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting the “PYLOTUM” research project at Peking University as part of the research funding program for the Asia-Pacific Research Area (APRA).

Contact

Prof. Markus Gerhard
Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene
Technical University of Munich
Tel.: +49 (0)89 4140 – 2477
markus.gerhard@tum.de