Issue 11, February 2011
bulletClimate Change - A Threat to Global Health?
bulletInterview: Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer
bulletInnovation: Facilitated Detection of Pathogenic Legionella Bacteria in Water
bulletNanoparticles Used as Food Additives Trigger Immune Reactions
bulletEvent: Tuberculosis - A Neglected Pandemic
bulletComing Up at the GCRI
article1Climate Change - A Threat to Global Health?
Climate change, which affects all sectors of society, poses a threat to global health, both directly and indirectly. The 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent floods in Pakistan, had a catastrophic effect on human health. The economist and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman discusses the effects of severe weather on world food production in his February 6th New York Times op-ed column, "Droughts, Floods and Food."
In an appeal published in Science in November 2010, leading international scientists emphasized that "progress in understanding and addressing both global environmental change and sustainable development requires better integration of social science research." German contributor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the director of the interdisciplinary Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), said that "research has to better understand how people respond to environmental change." As an integral part of the Potsdam scientific community devoted to climate change and sustainability research, the PIK collaborates closely with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). In this issue of E-NNOVATION GERMANY, the IASS founding director and current executive director, Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, discusses effective governance for sustainable development, a topic he will present at the GCRI on May 9, 2011. This and other events can now be found on the GCRI website,

Prof. Dr. Klaus Toepfer
article2INTERVIEW: Sustainability as a Global Issue with Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer
Throughout his career in German and international politics, Prof. Klaus Töpfer's primary focus has been sustainability. In 2008, he received the German Sustainability Award for his lifetime achievements and contributions to the field of sustainability. He is the founding director and current Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). The Potsdam-based organization is a think tank devoted to promoting interdisciplinary science and research for global sustainability. Before taking the lead of IASS, Prof. Töpfer was the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) based in Nairobi and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations (1998-2006). From 1987 until 1994 he served as German Federal Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and from 1994 to 1998 he was the Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Housing and Urban Development. For a complete biography, click here.
In his interview with the GCRI, Prof. Töpfer discusses how modern societies can become sustainable. He also reflects on the relationship between science and policy-making and how the IASS has been able to enhance this  relationship. Sharing his insights on effective governance for sustainable development, Prof. Töpfer addresses a topic he will present at the May 9th GCRI event on "Science for Sustainable Societal Transformations: Towards Effective Governance." To read the interview, click here.

article3INNOVATION: New Method Facilitates Detection of Pathogenic Legionella Bacteria in Water
Dangerous Showers
Hot water heaters, air conditioning and showers are a true paradise for Legionella. Some strains of these bacteria are highly infectious for humans. Transmission occurs primarily via pathogen-containing aerosols. A verification of the different types of Legionella is very complicated since the bacteria are difficult to isolate and cultivate. Furthermore, subtypes make a reliable detection even harder: the species Legionella pneumophila alone, the cause of severe pneumonias in immunocompromised patients, includes 14 subtypes.
Researchers at the German Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, HZI) have now developed a highly accurate and fast diagnostic tool to detect and distinguish different L. pneumophila subtypes on the molecular level. The bacterial DNA is isolated directly from the water sample, purified and analyzed. "Until now, this has not been possible," says Dr. Manfred Höfle, head of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at the HZI. The method uses small, repeating DNA sections (so-called tandem repeats) that are very characteristic for each L. pneumophila strain and subtype. "We mark those tandem repeats with dyes. Each bacterial strain provides us with a characteristic pattern. Thus we can not only verify which pathogen is in the sample, but can also check its potential virulence."
This new method has the potential to facilitate the risk management of drinking water supply systems: It may help to detect contaminated areas and control growth in biofilm harboring pathogenic Legionella populations.

ZnO Particles
article4Nanoparticles Used as Food Additives Trigger Immune Reactions
Engineered nanoparticles, which are more than 100 times smaller than the cells in our body,  have proven beneficial in multiple industrial applications, such as surface coatings, microelectronics, and drug development. Scientists are currently testing whether nanoparticles improve the texture, stability and flavor of our food. However, the small size of the particles might enable them to freely enter cells in our organs, giving reason for health concerns. The research groups working with Irmgard Förster and Roel Schins at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF) in Düsseldorf, Germany, are currently exploring the effects of nanoparticles on intestinal immune reactions and cancer development. The researchers found that SiO2- and TiO2-nanoparticles, which are already on the market, can activate a protein complex called the inflammasome in immune cells, leading to secretion of cytokines and enhancement of inflammatory immune responses. On the other hand, ZnO nanoparticles, which may be used in food packing materials due to their antimicrobial properties, can cause DNA strand breakage in gut epithelial cells. In ongoing studies the groups are focusing on the effects of ingested nanoparticles on the immune system of the gut to estimate potential risks for patients suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. For additional information, click here.

Tuberculosis event
article5EVENT: Tuberculosis - A Neglected Pandemic
Tuberculosis, along with HIV/AIDS, is one of today's deadliest threats; 10 million new cases of active TB develop each year worldwide, of which one quarter are fatal. While treatments are available, the number of multi-drug-resistant infections is on the rise. What are the challenges researchers face in developing a cure? What advances are being made, and how will they impact the developed and developing world? Join our experts from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development for answers to these questions and insight into the current state of immunobiology. Moderated by Dr. Ann Ginsberg, Chief Medical Officer, Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the event will take place on Thursday, March 31, at 7:00 p.m. and will feature Prof. Stefan Kaufmann, Director and Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany, and Carl Nathan, MD, Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology, Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College. Please click here to register.

Energy event
article6Coming Up at the GCRI
  • March 7: A German-American Energy Efficiency Roundtable in Boston, MA; in collaboration with the German American Chambers of Commerce
  • March 31: Tuberculosis - A Neglected Pandemic; in collaboration with the Max Planck Florida Institute 
  • April 5: A keynote address by GCRI Director Dr. Joann Halpern on "Transatlantic Perspectives on Emerging Technology Management" at the Hannover Messe, Germany
  • April 13: A nanotechnology workshop, panel discussion and art exhibit, in collaboration with the Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CeNIDE) and the Consortium of the Ruhr Universities (ConRuhr)
  • May 9: A panel discussion on "Science for Sustainable Societal Transformations: Towards Effective Governance" featuring Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer; in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)
For more information, please visit the new GCRI website