Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg


Prof. Dr. Andreas Simm

phone: 0345 557 2647

Interdisciplinary Centre for Ageing Halle
06099 Halle (Saale)

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Ageing Research: Topic of the Future and Chance for Halle


Everyone wants to grown up, but nobody seems to want to grow old. An entire industry appears to be thriving from the fight against wrinkles and gray hair. Nevertheless the number of white-haired Germans is steadily increasing. A rapidly ageing society is good for research on ageing,  especially when it comes to awarding funding. The Interdisciplinary Centre for Ageing Halle (IZAH) has an opportunity to position itself as one of the few interdisciplinary centres for ageing research in the country. The conditions are just right.

Professor Dr. Andreas Simm (Photo: Daniel Gandyra)

Professor Dr. Andreas Simm (Photo: Daniel Gandyra)

Professor Dr. Andreas Simm (Photo: Daniel Gandyra)

Hardly any other region in Europe has such dire demographic prognoses as the new federal states. “It’s in fact a catastrophe that so few people here are embracing this topic,” states Prof. Dr. Andreas Simm. “It is precisely here in eastern Germany that the effects and challenges related to this can be observed locally,” says the director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ageing Halle (IZAH) at MLU.

The IZAH is still a predominantly “virtual” centre lacking rooms and its own employees. “Eighty to 90 per cent of the organisation is operating in my head,” relates Simm. In February 2010 the centre received its charter.  Now the biologist wants to fill it with life. Two aspects of ageing research particularly fascinate him: “It is nearly the only area of research where you can be certain that you will one day also be affected,” says the professor from the Clinic for Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. The other fascination for him is the extreme breadth of this area of research:  “Basically everything plays a role. At a conference on ageing you will find physicians, psychologists, sociologists, biologists… - every talk offers a peek beyond the confines of one’s own field of expertise.”

At the same time, the high interdisciplinary aspect of the subject creates the biggest challenge when it comes to implementing projects. Because ageing research touches upon so many different specialist disciplines, it still doesn’t have its own review board at the German Research Foundation which examines funding decisions. “If you want to obtain funds for projects in the fields of gerontology and geriatrics – i.e. research on ageing and research of ageing people – you are initially referred to specialists in other research areas,” states Simm who finally organised an application for an ageing research review board last year.   

Seven institutes from various MLU faculties, from sports sciences to cell biology and nutritional sciences are now participating in the IZAH. The centre is even active beyond Halle’s borders: “We are currently putting together a research group on the metabolism of sugars with scientists from Jena and Leipzig,” reveals Director Simm.