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Clusters of Excellence

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BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies

Biological signaling processes form the basis of life for all of an organism’s cells. A more precise understanding of these processes can therefore provide solutions to many biological challenges and spur advances in medical research and practice. True to its slogan “from analysis to synthesis,” BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies has succeeded for the first time ever in combining signaling research with methods from synthetic biology: It applies modern analytical methods and strategies from synthetic biology to make sense of complex biological signaling processes and control them in creative and playful ways. In a close collaboration between biology, medicine, and engineering, BIOSS researchers develop strategies and devices for deciphering the signals that regulate life in and between cells and modifying them for medical purposes – for instance to control the signals of tumor cells.

BIOSS was successful with its proposal in the first round of the Excellence Initiative (2006–2012) as well as with its renewal proposal in the second round (2012–2017).


BrainLinks-BrainTools conducts research at interfaces between machines and the human brain. The goal of the Cluster of Excellence is to develop flexible yet stable, intuitive assistance systems for people with neurological restrictions and diseases. The cluster combines the fields of biology, microsystems engineering, computer science, and medicine. The initiative focuses on two areas of application: The first involves interfaces that use brain activity to read intentions and commands and control external devices. Examples include prostheses for paralytics or communication aids for stroke patients undergoing rehabilitation. The second area of application is intelligent implants that are capable of autonomously identifying and treating disturbances in brain function like those associated with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and other neurological diseases.

BrainLinks-BrainTools was successful with its proposal in the second round of the Excellence Initiative (2012–2017).