Research, Innovation, Patient care / 05.08.2020
Christopher Baum chosen to head the BIH
On August 5, 2020, the Supervisory Board of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), chaired by BMBF State Secretary Christian Luft, unanimously appointed Professor Christopher Baum as Chief Executive Officer of the BIH. The distinguished scientific manager and recognized expert in translation, molecular medicine and gene therapy will take office in Berlin on October 1, 2020. Baum is currently Vice President for Medicine at the Universität zu Lübeck as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH). He succeeds Professor Axel R. Pries, who for the past two years has served as interim Chief Executive Officer of the BIH and who will now be able to devote himself full-time to his role as Dean of Charité – Universitätsmedizin.
“As Chairman of the Supervisory Board, I am delighted that Professor Baum is joining the Berlin Institute of Health as its Chief Executive Officer,” said Christian Luft, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). “Professor Baum is the right person to usher in the BIH’s integration into Charité, given his strong strategic planning skills and wealth of leadership experience. He will also sustainably advance the BIH’s focus on medical translation, in Berlin as well as in Germany and internationally. I am very much looking forward to working together.”
Steffen Krach, State Secretary at the Berlin Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research, concurred, saying: “Christopher Baum is the ideal candidate for the BIH and a valuable addition to our healthcare hub. Berlin has big plans as a scientific and medical location, and I very much look forward to working with him going forward.”
Baum takes over a well-run organization
Professor Axel R. Pries, interim Chief Executive Officer of the BIH and Dean of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, is handing over a well-run organization to his successor: “In recent years, the BIH has grown into one of the top translational medicine locations in Germany. We are moving forward with our mission of turning research into health, and we already have a number of successes to show for it, from research findings published in high-ranking journals – including and especially on the current coronavirus pandemic – to national and international collaborations, and the launching of spin-off companies in digital medicine. I am delighted that, with Professor Baum, we have found a Chief Executive Officer who is well versed in all these areas and will continue to drive them forward.”
Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, Chief Executive Officer at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, welcomed BIH’s new CEO, who will also sit on Charité’s Executive Board from 2021 following the integration of the BIH into Charité. “Christopher Baum has a great deal of management experience of his own in university hospitals. At the independent BIH, he will strongly promote the transfer of research results into clinical practice, making maximum use of the synergies that exist with Charité.”
Expert in molecular medicine and gene therapy
Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), also expressed delight at the appointment of Christopher Baum: “As an expert in molecular medicine and an acclaimed scientific manager, Christopher Baum will be an excellent partner for us. With him at the helm of the BIH, we will continue to extend the close collaboration between the MDC, Charité and the BIH. I warmly congratulate Christopher Baum and wish him great success in his new role.” The MDC, along with Charité, is a founding institution of the BIH and will be a privileged partner of the BIH after the BIH is integrated into Charité.
Professor Christopher Baum was born in 1962 in Marburg. He studied philosophy for two semesters in Mainz, and medicine in Essen, Freiburg and Hamburg. He obtained his doctorate in 1991, and qualified as a professor in the field of molecular medicine in 1999 at the University of Hamburg. In 2000, he joined the Hannover Medical School (MHH) as a professor for stem cell biology, and was also an associate professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the United States from 2002. In Hanover, he led the Institute of Experimental Hematology from 2006 and served as both the Ombudsperson for Good Scientific Practice and the Dean of Research. He was elected President of the MHH in 2013. At the beginning of 2019, Baum moved to the University of Lübeck as its first full-time Vice President for Medicine and a member of the Board of Directors of UKSH – Germany’s second largest university hospital after Charité.
Molecular biologist, doctor and scientific manager
“I would like to thank all those involved for putting their trust in me, and I am greatly looking forward to this new role,” said Baum after learning of his appointment. “Translation is a core concern of mine: turning research into health means turning scientific findings into concrete applications that help people. The BIH is an outstanding institution involved in shaping the transition from basic research to medicine. I will do my utmost to accomplish this special mission together with the first-class team at the BIH.” Baum is interested in both promoting research and intensive cooperating with clinicians. “With Charité, we have an excellent clinical and scientific partner at our side – this partnership is enhanced and expanded in various areas by the MDC. The synergy that exists between these outstanding partner institutions provides the foundation for the BIH’s success.”
Christopher Baum’s interest in gene therapy began early on in his scientific career. He developed genetic vectors for planting genes in blood stem cells and uncovered the basics of so-called insertional mutagenesis, which can cause blood cancer in patients undergoing gene therapy. Based on these findings, he developed test procedures that enabled this dangerous side effect to be eliminated before the genetically modified blood stem cells are transferred. In his scientific management roles, he has designed national and international networks for translational research in stem cell and gene therapy. In Hanover, he introduced the voluntary scientific year as a new form of Germany’s voluntary social year, the Regenerative Sciences PhD program of the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH (From REgenerative BIology to Reconstructive THerapy), the clinician scientist Young Academy Program, and the further education program TRAIN Academy for translational sciences. He was also responsible for the overall coordination of the MHH’s proposals for the German Universities Excellence Initiative. At UKSH and the Universität zu Lübeck, a center for artificial intelligence, he dedicated himself primarily to linking computer science and medicine, cooperating between the Lübeck and Kiel locations, and expanding interprofessional teaching. He also introduced a PhD program in medical informatics with dual supervision by experts from computer science and medicine.
Baum has received numerous awards for his scientific work, including the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Eva Luise Köhler Research Award for research on rare diseases. He is a member of the Executive Board of the German Association of Medical Faculties (MFT), where he chairs the Science Working Groupwww.bihealth.org
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