The most outstanding German, French and Swiss university network, better known as EUCOR, signed a framework agreement with Semmelweis University. EUCOR was looking for a Central European partner institution with outstanding scientific work. Dr. Béla Merkely, university rector, emphasized that the agreement also allows for joint applications for EU research opportunities. Joint work can begin in the fields of oncology, neuroscience, cardiovascular diseases and robotic surgery.

EUCOR was established in 1989 as a network of German, French and Swiss universities. The members include the Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg and the Karlsruche Institute of Technology in Germany, the University of Strasbourg and the University of Upper Alsace in France, and the University of Basel in Switzerland. EUCOR universities have given the world 10-15 Nobel Prizes so far, and the partner institutions pride themselves in their intensive joint research projects and strong student mobility.

 Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, President of EUCOR and Rector of the Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg, and Dr. Béla Merkely, signed a memorandum of understanding on the promotion of a cooperative partnership between EUCOR and Semmelweis University on 2 July 2018. The EUCOR network contacted Semmelweis University on the basis of seeking a Central European partner with outstanding scientific work in the fields of public health and personalized medicine. Cooperation creates the possibility for Semmelweis to jointly apply with EUCOR partners for major EU research resources – emphasized Dr. Béla Merkely, stressing that the university’s translational research is further promoted by participating in a prestigious university network. Discussion is ongoing on the areas in which joint projects can take place; among the potential areas, oncology, neurosurgery, cardiovascular diseases and robotic surgery are among the top priorities. 

As part of the related discussions, Dr. Béla Merkely and Dr. András Kiss, Head of the 2nd Department of Pathology and Rector’s Commissioner for German Relations, made visits to three of the universities in the EUCOR network in October, including Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg, the University of Strasbourg in France, and the University of Basel. In the field of cardiology, all three universities expressed their willingness to cooperate, as the Varosmajor Heart and Vascular Centre is home to an extensive biobank and many international research projects. Similarly, serious and multifaceted potential cooperation agreements emerged in the fields of oncopathology and oncology, including early diagnosis, targeted therapy, and molecular pathology. In the field of immunology, multiple sclerosis-related research can be part of the ongoing projects being conducted at the Universities of Basel and Strasbourg. The latter also sees opportunities for cooperation in relation to rare neuromuscular disorders. They also agreed to cooperate in PhD training and in the doctoral schools by possibly establishing joint research teams. In the framework of student mobility, Semmelweis University offered university summer courses in pathology for EUCOR universities.

 International recognition is an important aspect in various higher education world rankings, and therefore international cooperation agreements can also lead to significant progress – the rector noted, recalling that the university aims to rank within the world’s top 100 higher education institutions in the next ten years. Three of the EUCOR universities are included in or are close to being included in the top 100 (the University of Freiburg ranks 76, the University of Basel ranks 103, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ranks 135 according to the Times Higher Education world rankings for 2019). 

Béla Merkely highlighted, among other things, that the University of Basel has a budget of nearly 2.5 times the annual cost of the first three years of pre-clinical subjects for clinical subjects, and a similar amount is also spent on clinical research. The University of Strasbourg has more resources available for research than Semmelweis’s entire annual budget. At the same time, EUCOR member universities are envious of the University of Freiburg and Semmelweis University, where the unity of education, research and medicine can be directly realized as the clinic belongs to the university. 

At the University of Freiburg, which has been a strategic partner for Semmelweis University for several decades, Dr. Béla Merkely rector received a Life-Prize commemorative medal from Dr. Christoph Bode, head of the University Heart Centre. He then lectured on Semmelweis University and his professional career, from its beginnings in Heidelberg to the present. 

Dr. Péter Ferdinandy, Vice-Rector for Scientific Affairs and Innovation, emphasized that the network is conducive to maximizing the scientific and innovation potential of cooperating universities and university spin-off companies. Through the cooperation, it is possible to obtain funding for joint projects, introduce new technologies, and create joint publications and patents. In addition to the establishment of joint research teams, cooperation between doctoral can bring a number of advantages, including the number of foreign doctoral students at the university as well as increasing the international perspective of doctoral education. 

Pálma Dobozi
Photo Source: András Kiss
Featured photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University
Translation: Faye Gillespie