Precision Medicine: Kiel-based assistant physician awarded Else Kröner Memorial Fellowship

In the funded project, Dr. Florian Tran, clinician scientist at the Cluster of Excellence PMI, plans to use a new technology to detect individual signatures in intestinal tissue.

This is a great success for Dr. Florian Tran, who has been funded since 2019 on the Clinician Scientist Program of the Cluster of Excellence “Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation” (PMI). The 31 year old physician and scientist has been awarded an Else Kröner Memorial Fellowship for a new research project. The fellowship comes with funding of €230,000 and releases him from his clinical duties for two years so that he can concentrate fully on the research. “I am really delighted with this particular funding as it enables me to take my first steps to scientific independence,” explained Tran. The spokesperson for the Cluster of Excellence PMI, Professor Stefan Schreiber, emphasized that “I am proud that a young researcher from our university and our Cluster of Excellence has received this important award. This is, above all else, a reflection of Dr. Tran’s personal qualifications.” The success also underlines the need for translational research within structured Clinician Scientist Programs. “This is the only way to enable ambitious clinical research to be conducted alongside and on an equal footing to patient care in the hospital,” said the Director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at Kiel University and Director of the Department of Internal Medicine I at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel. “In the project, spatial transcriptomics technology, which has only recently become available, will be used for the first time for the molecular characterization of intestinal tissue. I am very confident that the results will bring us a step closer to individualized treatment. The new technology secures our position as a center of innovation here in Kiel,” added Professor Philip Rosenstiel, Director at the IKMB.

Molecular markers for successful individual treatment

Florian Tran is a researcher at the IKMB and assistant physician at the UKSH, Campus Kiel. The primary objective of his work is to understand chronic inflammatory bowel diseases in as many aspects as possible and thereby improve their treatment. The project now being funded focuses on ulcerative colitis. This chronic inflammation in the large intestine is associated with frequent bouts of diarrhea and stomach cramps, severely restricts the patient’s social life and increases the risk of bowel cancer. Although, in principle, there are very effective treatments, disease control is often inadequate on an individual case basis over the long term. “We do not know which treatment works best for which patient or how we achieve long-term remission, in other words, freedom from symptoms and inflammation. Our objective is to develop molecular markers that predict individual responses to certain treatments,” explained Tran. This will now involve a brand-new technology called spatial transcriptomics. “Using this technology, we can analyze the genetic information of individual cells in their exact spatial location on a tissue sample. We place a type of grid on the tissue and we can record complex molecular signals for each grid point,” said Tran, who is assisted in his analysis by bioinformatician Dr. Archana Bhardwaj. The spatial molecular data will be compared between intestinal tissue samples from patients receiving two different treatments. The objective here is to find molecular characteristics that reflect the success or failure of the particular treatment. Tests will also be conducted to establish whether these characteristics can be used to predict which particular treatment offers the patient long-term freedom from symptoms.

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