Beiersdorf and DKFZ invest EUR 4.6 million in skin cancer prevention

6 July 2023
New joint innovation lab aims to reverse biological ageing of skin cells

The Hamburg-based Beiersdorf and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) announced Monday (July 3, 2023) EUR 4.6 million in funds for research into the biological ageing of skin cells  thereby reducing the risk of skin cancer. As part of the four-year R&D project, scientists will research the so-called "epigenetic clock" of skin cells in a new joint Innovation lab at DKFZ in Heidelberg.

Molecular clock influences skin aging and cancer risk

"Age is the most important known cancer risk factor. We wish to intervene in the epigenetics of the skin, thereby rejuvenating skin cells and possibly preventing the development of skin cancer," said Prof. Frank Lyko, Head of Epigenetics at DKFZ. That requires the study of the molecular clock in human cells to which epigenetic marks in the genetic material are crucial and from which the current age can be read. These markings change significantly over the years and raise the risk of cancer. Research in new lab aims to uncover how these age-related epigenetic changes affect cellular processes, the associated ageing symptoms and how the molecular clock can perhaps be turned back. "The close co-operation between our experts in skin biology and DKFZ researchers will create further synergies in this area," said Dr. Gitta Neufang, Senior VP Research & Development at Beiersdorf.

Epigenetic rejuvenation of human cells within reach 

The focus of Lyko's work with Beiersdorf has so far been on the influence of UV radiation on skin cells. The latest goal is to develop active substances that prevent healthy cells from becoming cancerous and the influence on both skin ageing and the development of cancer. The research is already well advanced, Lyko noted. "We have reached a stage of research that also brings substantial epigenetic rejuvenation of human cells within reach," said Dr. Marc Winnefeld, Head of Applied Skin Research at Beiersdorf. As part of its R&D strategy, the company also works with start-ups. The joint laboratory with DKFZ is the company's first collaboration with a scientific research institution.


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