Innovative research and clinical care under one roof: Rahel Hirsch Center for Translational Medicine of the BIH and Charité opens its doors


On January 19, 2023, the Rahel Hirsch Center for Translational Medicine officially opened next to Charité’s high-rise ward block. The opening ceremony was attended by the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey; by Berlin’s Senator for Higher Education and Research, Health, Long-Term Care and Gender Equality, Ulrike Gote; and by the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Judith Pirscher. The building, which formerly housed surgical, intensive care and emergency units, was gutted down to the frame and completely refurbished throughout. It will be jointly used by the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin for biomedical research, outpatient care and clinical studies.

The BIH and Charité have been united for just over two years. As Charité’s third pillar, the BIH has the mission of advancing translational medicine – a process that involves transferring laboratory discoveries as quickly as possible into clinical solutions that benefit patients. Now a new building is bringing the two partners together spatially: In the Rahel Hirsch Center for Translational Medicine (RHC), physicians from Charité will work with scientists from the BIH under one roof.

On the occasion of the RHC’s opening on January 19, 2023, Franziska Giffey, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, said: “Berlin is on its way to becoming one of the world’s leading international medical metropolises. To achieve this, we need the close integration of cutting-edge research on the one hand and excellent patient care on the other. The new Rahel Hirsch Center for Translational Medicine does just that: In state-of-the-art clinical, laboratory and office facilities equipped with the latest technologies, it uniquely links together under one roof the BIH’s innovative research and Charité’s medical care. I would like to thank everyone involved for their tremendous efforts in bringing this project to fruition. We in Berlin are working together to create the future of medicine.”  




Judith Pirscher, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, said: “The opening of the Rahel Hirsch Center for Translational Medicine is a great success for Berlin and Germany as a research location and represents a key milestone in translational medicine research. As the Federal Research Ministry, we have set ourselves the aim of promoting and accelerating innovation and technology transfer. The Rahel Hirsch Center is a beacon project that demonstrates how these goals can be implemented in the field of health research. This is because the collaboration between Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health puts the BIH’s mission of ‘turning research into health’ into practice, thereby facilitating the optimal integration of medical research and clinical care.”


Ulrike Gote, Berlin’s Senator for Higher Education and Research, Health, Long-Term Care and Gender Equality, said: “The Rahel Hirsch Center provides a unique structural and innovative bridge between cutting-edge research and medical care and is ideally located next to Charité’s high-rise ward block. Science and health must always be conceived and put into practice together. The RHC will not only serve as a model for this process, but will also play a key role in the healthcare hub of Berlin. I am sure that we will soon see this Center making outstanding contributions at the interface between basic and applied medical research. I wish all the employees at the Rahel Hirsch Center much joy and success in their endeavors at this beautiful state-of-the-art building.”   

BIH’s integration into Charité becomes tangible

The Board of Directors of the BIH and Charité thanked the federal and state governments for generously funding the construction project. The former surgery and intensive care wing of Charité was completely renovated and transformed into a modern and spacious research, innovation and patient center. The federal government provided the greater part, or 60 percent, of funding for the approximately €100 million renovation, while the State of Berlin contributed 40 percent of the building costs.

Prof. Heyo K. Kroemer, Chief Executive Officer of Charité, stressed: “Charité, as the university medical center of the State of Berlin, greatly appreciates Berlin’s support for Charité in this landmark construction project. Integrating the BIH into Charité was a significant step forward, and today’s opening of the Rahel Hirsch Center is a key cornerstone in the merging process. The building exemplifies the synergies between these two institutions, not only because of its physical proximity but also because of its special cutting-edge concept.”

“With the Rahel Hirsch Center we are improving our already very successful and groundbreaking collaboration across joint project lines. In this building, scientists, physicians and patients will interact with one another on a daily basis,” said Prof. Joachim Spranger, Dean of Charité. “Looking to the future, the continuous sharing of bench and bedside experiences will foster the development of new ideas, thus leading to even better healthcare options. In addition, the Berlin Simulation and Training Center (BeST) will enable us to simulate treatment alternatives as realistically as possible using state-of-the-art technologies and techniques. This makes it possible for us to simultaneously train the doctors of tomorrow here.” 

Astrid Lurati, Charité’s Chief Financial and Infrastructure Officer, praised in particular the constructive collaboration on this ambitious building project: “By renovating a dilapidated existing building into a sustainable research and healthcare building, Charité has once again put its construction expertise on display. Thanks to the close collaboration between all stakeholders, this important building project, with a total budget of around €100 million, has now been completed only slightly behind schedule, despite considerable pandemic-related obstacles in terms of the labor and supply chain situation. I would like to express my profound thanks to everyone involved for this outstanding achievement.”

BIH receives 90 percent of its core funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent from the State of Berlin. Prof. Christopher Baum, Chair of the BIH Board of Directors and Charité’s Chief Translational Research Officer, expressed his deep gratitude to both funding authorities: “We are very pleased that the Rahel Hirsch Center now gives the BIH a true center for medical innovation on Campus Charité Mitte. Our focus here is on advancing data science and genomic medicine. Daily interactions with physicians from Charité’s clinical and outpatient departments as well as with patients give our scientists valuable insights for their work. Translational research is put into practice here, and exchange between clinicians and researchers is possible at any time. In this way, the Rahel Hirsch Center will contribute to turning research into health.”

Combining biomedical research and clinical medicine in one building





The modern six-story research building will provide 14,875 square meters of floor space for research groups, technology platforms, study centers and outpatient areas, and is directly linked to Charité’s high-rise ward block. The BIH’s Digital Health Center and Health Data Sciences Center are moving into the building with their research groups. Three Core Facilities will support the groups with cell research, genetic analysis and bioinformatics data analysis, and certain parts of the joint Clinical Study Center of the BIH and Charité will be based at the RHC. The Julius Wolff Institute of Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Regeneration will be temporarily housed at the RHC. The Oncological Outpatient Department and Day Case Unit of the Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as the Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology and its surgical units and Skin Cancer Center are also moving to the RHC, as are the research and diagnostic teams of the Departments of Neurosurgery and Neuropathology. The RHC will also be home to the Berlin Simulation and Training Center (BeST), which provides training to physicians within and outside Charité on how to use next-generation technologies and methods.


Rahel Hirsch – Germany’s first female professor of medicine





The namesake of the new Center for Translational Medicine is – like the BIH’s Käthe Beutler Building in Berlin-Buch – a female Jewish doctor. Rahel Hirsch, born in Frankfurt am Main in 1870, went to Zurich in 1898 to study medicine, because women in Germany were not allowed to study medicine until 1900. As only the second woman to work at Charité as a medical doctor, she discovered a phenomenon later dubbed the “Hirsch effect.” It describes the permeability of the mucous membrane in the small intestine, which causes solid food particles to be absorbed into the blood and excreted unchanged through the kidneys in the urine. In 1908 Hirsch was appointed head of Charité’s Polyclinic, and in 1913 she became the first woman in Germany (at the time called the Kingdom of Prussia) to be awarded the title of professor of medicine. The National Socialists took away Hirsch’s health insurance license in 1933. After she lost her license to practice medicine in 1938, she fled to London, where she died on October 6, 1953, at the age of 83. Dr. Michael Frieser, Administrative Director of the BIH, welcomed the name choice: “The BIH has set out to make the primarily male-dominated world of commemoration more feminine. Alongside the undoubtedly huge achievements of Robert Koch, Rudolf Virchow, and other great physicians and clinical researchers, we also want to honor female scientists and physicians who have made significant contributions to medical research. Rahel Hirsch distinguished herself under very difficult circumstances both as a physician and as a scientist. Her name is therefore a perfect fit for the BIH’s and Charité’s new translational medicine center.


In the latest edition of the BIH Podcast, Dr. Benjamin Kuntz talks about the life of Professor Rahel Hirsch (in German):