The term “epidemiology” is derived from the Greek word epi “on”, demos “people”, and logos “description/explanation/science”. Thus, the recently established research group for Clinical Epidemiology addresses the description and explanation of diseases, disorders, or associated factors using data sets from well-defined groups of patients.
Previous and future research areas
Our goal is to improve the treatment of future patients based on valid study results while protecting the participating patients in these studies. We work toward this goal jointly with various medical disciplines, in particular with colleagues of the Integrated Research and Treatment Center for Sepsis Control and Care (CSCC).
Our core competences are the adequate planning/design of studies and experiments, their quality-assured implementation, and proper statistical analyses according to the principles of evidence-based medicine. We also draw on ideas for the so-called personalized medicine ("precision medicine") for prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. In certain cases, due to the combination of the two fields, the development or implementation of new biostatistical methods is necessary.
The research group is involved in numerous CSCC projects and is engaged in the Center for Clinical Studies (ZKS) with a focus on clinical trials. Previous research centered on sequential and adaptive study designs, statistical methods in genomics, molecular epidemiology, and genetic epidemiology as well as on their application in the field of complex diseases (e.g. sepsis, psychiatric disorders) or complex traits (e.g. obesity). Within the National Genome Research Network Prof. Scherag was responsible for a central cross-sectional project, which applied and developed methods based on patient data and high-dimensional molecular biological data. Molecular data included genome-wide gene expression data but also data on DNA markers in genome-wide association studies and chip-based data on high-throughput DNA methylation. Finally, pre-processed data sets from new sequencing techniques (“next generation sequencing”) were analyzed as well.
In the future, the research group will cover an even broader spectrum of patient-oriented research data – from molecular “omics” data sets to administrative data sets in the field of health services research – in a methodological, cross-sectional CSCC project. We aim at improving the interaction between basic research and clinical research based on our methodological core competences. In Anglo-Saxon countries, such an approach is summarized as "translational epidemiology". Our particular interest is in a critical appraisal of research data in terms of a clinical perspective and relevance. We want to prepare data results so that they are in principle understandable to enable cross-discipline communication. Finally, we want to clearly specify the limits of interpretation of scientific results.