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Start-up Fund Medical Research

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Dr. Rebecca Förster
Consultant for Research and Career Development
Phone: +49 521 106-67872

Bettina Janzen
Assistance Research and Career Development Unit
Phone.: +49 521 106-67896

Six projects were selected for funding in the first round of calls for proposals from the Start-up Fund Medical Research.

The aim of the research projects is to prepare applications for third-party funding in thematic areas of the two research priorities "Brain - Impairment - Participation" and "Intelligent Systems - Assistance-Interprofessional Networking" as well as the two perspective fields "Microbial Diversity in the Human Habitat" and "Data Science for Medical Care".

Funded Projects


  • Dr. med. Jens Conrad (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Jun. Prof. Dr. PH Christoph Dockweiler (Fakultät für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Dr. med. Andreas Elsner (Orthopädische Gemeinschaftspraxis am Bültmannshof),
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Schack (Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Vordemvenne (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel)



Virtual reality (VR) applications are a rapidly growing branch. Thus, these technologies are also increasingly used in the field of medicine. In combination with 3D motion analysis, these systems have great potential for musculoskeletal rehabilitation. This study investigates an innovative system for individualized, adaptive virtual rehabilitation of the upper extremity. In this pilot study 40 patients with injuries of the upper extremity are randomly assigned to either the "standard group" or "VR group". In the 4-week extended ambulant physiotherapy (EAP), surveys and examinations of the function of the upper extremity are conducted at the beginning and end of the 2nd and 4th week. In addition, a survey/interview on the acceptance of the system is conducted at the end of week 4. Acceptance is also surveyed among the participating users (therapists, doctors). With the results of this pilot study we plan a follow-up study with the aim to investigate the benefit of individualized, adaptive virtual rehabilitation of the upper extremity.


  • Prof. Dr. Christiane Fuchs (Fakultät für Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Prof. Dr. Sebastian Rehberg (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Rudwaleit (Klinikum Bielefeld),
  • PD Dr. med. Wilfried Witte (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel)



Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a common reason for a medical consultation, for a sick leave certificate, medical assessments and early retirement. The causes are degenerative joint changes, inflammatory rheumatic diseases and chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia. The distinction of these illnesses in the primary care can be difficult, and many patients are referred to rheumatology for further work-up. The large number of patients with chronic pain leads to long waiting periods until first presentation in the rheumatological setting. The proposed scientific project pursues the goal of an optimized referral strategy with an adequate preselection for urgent appointments in rheumatology, together with simultaneous detection of possible fibromyalgia syndrome already in primary care. It tests a new, simple referral path with standardized assessments in primary care, in specialized rheumatology and in specialized pain therapy and includes the analysis of context factors relevant for fibromyalgia. This simultaneous assessment of a potential inflammatory rheumatic disease and of a chronic pain condition in primary care is the first of its kind. The referral path can contribute to an early rheumatological presentation of patients with a higher probability of an inflammatory rheumatic disease and otherwise may help primary care physicians to reliably detect and treat fibromyalgia already in primary care. Furthermore, an analysis of contextual factors such as level of education, employment status, possible migration background, occurrence of depression and other psychological symptoms and the ability to resilience will improve the understanding of the development of fibromyalgia and identify possible therapeutic approaches. The project has the potential to enhance the management of care for patients with pain in Bielefeld and OWL by optimizing referral to rheumatology and to specialized pain therapy. In addition, a network structure of the institutions involved in this project will be established.


  • apl. Prof. Dr. Jörn Kalinowski (Fakultät für Biologie and CeBiTec, Universität Bielefeld),
  • apl. Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Alexander Sczyrba (Technische Fakultät and CeBiTec, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Holger Sudhoff (Klinikum Bielefeld)

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is marked by an inflamed mucosa of nasal and paranasal sinuses and accompanied by a significantly reduced quality of live. Since the prevalence of CRS in Europe is rather high (10%) (Hastan et al., 2011) and no guidelines for the treatment of CRS are available, long lasting clinical histories with healthcare costs adding up to several billion € annually are caused by CRS. The progression and particularly the exacerbation of CRS is most frequently induced by bacterial infections and/or a shift in the nasal microbiome. The exact microbiome alterations and their specific influences are still unknown. This study focuses on establishing a workflow to detect microbiome changes in CRS patients down to the species level by a fast 16S rDNA-based amplicon sequencing technique. For this purpose, we will characterize the microbiome from the nasal cavity of healthy persons and compare this with data derived from CRS patients. To further reduce the influence of the individual biological variance we additionally plan to characterize the microbiome of the same CRS patient before and after treatment of CRS. By bioinformatic analysis of the derived sequencing data we plan to unravel microbiome-shifts occurring during the healing of CRS. All the detected commensal bacterial species taking part on this shift are screened for species with existing culture protocols. Finally, these bacteria are cultured in the lab. The obtained data is condensed in a scientific publication e.g. with a methodical scope focusing on the derived protocols and/or a paper wrapping up the microbiome data obtained during this research endeavor. The expected novel findings will provide a basis for further funding by national funding organizations.



  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Kayser (Fakultät für Biologie and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Franz Kummert (Technische Fakultät and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Jun. Prof. Dr. Michael Römer (Fakultät für Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Universität Bielefeld),
  • PD Dr. med. habil. Ingo Todt (Klinikum Bielefeld)


Hearing problems represent one of the greatest medical challenges of our time (global burdens of disease). Not only older people are affected, but also many young patients worldwide. A crucial group of hearing losses can be treated with cochlear-implants (CI). However, the rehabilitative care of cochlear-implant patients is a challenge due to the increasing number of implants worldwide (approx. 15% annually), the lack of a follow-up infrastructure and the risk of infection. Autonomous AI-based systems are seen as a possibility to solve the challenges of comprehensive therapeutic and technical postoperative care efficiently, cost-effectively and also in rural or less developed regions. The goal of the measure planned here is the conception and implementation of an open AI-based application, which in a first step performs individualized hearing and speech therapy analysis and supports aftercare. In a later step, the system should pave the way to an autonomous AI-based adjustment of cochlear-implants. For this purpose, the first step will be the creation of an operation algorithm (ENT Clinic, Klinikum Mitte) and the creation of a battery of behavioral tests (University of Bielefeld, Cognitive Neuroscience). The latter will be adapted and optimized to the special requirements of a cochlear-implant patient (University of Bielefeld, Economics, Decision Analytics), and finally the implementation into an AI based software (University of Bielefeld, Research Institute for Cognition and Robotics). Subsequently, the functional evaluation of the software is performed on a group of patients to verify the technical functionality, the acceptance by users and the therapeutic benefit. On the basis of this application, the functionality of the app is to be extended and the direct incorporation into a cochlear-implant system is to be implemented in a publicly funded project with an existing industrial partner, in order to be able to use an autonomous system for individualized aftercare in the future. This system would set new standards in terms of quality, efficiency and participation in CI aftercare due to the integration of hearing and speech therapy, technical adaptation and its autonomous AI concept.


  • Prof. Dr. med. Randolf Klingebiel (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Dr. rer. nat. Christian Poth (Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Prof. Dr. Helge Ritter (Technische Fakultät and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld),
  • Dr. med. Andreas Rogalewski (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Prof. Dr. med. Wolf-Rüdiger Schäbitz (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Prof. Dr. Werner Schneider (Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft and CITEC, Universität Bielefeld)


Strokes and Alzheimer's dementia are two of the most serious neurological diseases. Neurocognitive deficits (e.g. in perception) lead to a restriction of self-directed life. Despite the personal and social significance of these diseases, the diagnosis of associated cognitive deficits has been insufficient so far. However, targeted diagnostics is a premise for specific rehabilitative and possible medicinal therapy approaches. The overall goal of this research project is therefore to develop and evaluate a new diagnostic method for detecting cognitive deficits after strokes and in Alzheimer's disease. This method is based on temporally and spatially highly resolved measurement of eye movements in a series of simple tasks, such as eye movements away from appearing target stimuli, the so-called antisaccades. In contrast to current tests, this method captures profiles of basic neurocognitive processes such as attention and memory skills comprehensively, reliably and in a short testing time. This allows an analysis of neuro-cognitive profiles in comparison with healthy control persons of the same age, in order to enable a considerably more reliable and earlier detection of cognitive impairments. This could improve participation and maintenance of self-directed life by providing better starting points for therapy, rehabilitation and prophylactic measures.


  • Dr. med. Stefan Kreisel (Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel),
  • Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Angelika Schlarb (Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft, Universität Bielefeld)


The aging of society has an impact on the healthcare system. In order to meet the needs and requirements of elderly people, care needs to be adapted. On the one hand, there must be a stronger focus on the treatment of age-associated acute diseases. On the other hand, multimorbidity and the associated or resulting vulnerability of older people in the form of physical frailty and cognitive impairments are risks that must be taken into account throughout the entire care chain. It is mainly the correlation between acute disease and age-related vulnerability that determines the degree of impairment in the further course of the disease. One syndrome in which the detrimental consequences of this interaction are immediately apparent is delirium, which occurs on average in about 5% of hospital patients over the age of 65; in the post-operative setting, the incidence can reach values of up to 40%. The consequences are serious, since delirium is associated with increased morbidity, especially an increase in persistent cognitive deficits and institutionalization. It is only treatable to a limited extent, but is easily accessible for prevention. In addition to factors that can hardly be influenced, which are related to vulnerability, modifiable – and therefore preventable – risk factors, e.g. perioperative infections, sensory stress and the prescription of age-appropriate medication play an important role in the multifactorial genesis of the syndrome. The probability of postoperative delirium increased by up to a fourfold by chronic sleep disorders - although it remains unclear whether these are pathophysiologically causative or a proxy for other underlying risks. An interventional modification of this potential delirium risk, with the aim of improving the quality of sleep preoperatively in the sense of prehabilitation (and controlling age-appropriate, delirious sleep medication), could reduce the post-operative incidence of delirium given elective surgery and also contribute to elucidating the pathophysiology of the syndrome. The project will aim work to prepare a randomized clinical intervention study. For this purpose, Ia.) the state of research will be reviewed; Ib.) methods and techniques for sleep promotion will be adapted to the elderly and to the pre-hospital phase of planned elective surgery and Ic.) tested in a pilot study. In addition, II.) for the implementation of this pilot study, but also to establish a regional cross-sectoral research infrastructure,   primary care physicians and relevant departments of the Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel (EvKB) and the Klinikum Bielefeld will be integrated into a research network.

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