The Network of University Medicine (NUM)

The Network of University Medicine (NUM) was founded in April 2020 as part of the crisis management against the COVID-19 pandemic to coordinate clinical COVID-19 research throughout academic medical centers. The idea: wherever joint action and a coordinated approach brings synergies, speed or other advantages, the NUM is intended to promote cooperation between clinical researchers. Accordingly, the NUM's research projects are clinically orientated and strive for directly practice-relevant findings in order to provide better care for patients or better manage major crises in the field of public health.

Since then, the NUM has significantly changed the way German academic medical centers collaborates in clinical research. For the first time, scientists from all 36 German academic medical centres are working together in interdisciplinary research projects on an overarching platform. This comprehensive approach, which spans all academic medical centres and all medical disciplines, distinguishes the NUM from other clinical research networks, which generally limit themselves to individual disease areas and a limited number of university medical centres.

All NUM projects are characterised by the fact that academic medical centers work together across locations, not in competition. The principle of "co-operation instead of competition". To this end, the network has established research infrastructures.

These infrastructures, created through and for joint research, are operated on a permanent basis and therefore have the ability to continuously develop. The methodological, technical and organisational platforms with the associated governance concepts and legal bases are maintained in the NUM and used for individual research projects, for example to support data collection and data management for large, multi-centre clinical studies. The NUM platforms also help to ensure that clinical research and the healthcare system as a whole are well prepared for future pandemics and other public health crises.

Since 1 January 2022, the NUM has been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for a second funding period of three and a half years. Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin is responsible for coordinating the NUM. In order to secure the structures created in the NUM in the long term, the BMBF has announced to continue the network after the current funding period.

Cooperation instead of competition

The NUM exclusively supports cooperative and platform-oriented research projects that involve as many academic medical centers as possible. This collaborative character and the joint and coordinated approach are characteristic of the network. Leadership of the various projects is spread across the entire German academic medical centres and is usually shared between two sites per project. The competences of all member sites often build on each other, complement each other and only develop their full potential together. A total of 38 collaborative projects have already been initiated under this premise. Seven of these have developed into permanent research infrastructures. The joint use of research data across various sites and the realisation of large cooperative research projects is often only made possible by these infrastructures or platforms. They are being continuously expanded, are designed for questions across the entire spectrum of medicine, and are to be used for other diseases in addition to COVID-19 in the future.