Supporting research on community-acquired pneumonia

Community-acquired pneumonia is a disease of high medical and economical relevance. In the year 2020 the death toll of CAP in Germany was 15 000 persons, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. Pneumococcal CAP is not only the most common form of community-acquired pneumonia but also the statistically most prevalent infectious cause of death in Germany, according to the German institute for quality assurance and transparency in health IQTIG. Considering its medical and economic relevance, community-acquired pneumonia was severely under-researched before founding of the CAPNETZ network of competence first, and the CAPNETZ STIFTUNG soon after. Since the CAPNETZ study was introduced in 2002 the CAPNETZ cohort of ambulatory and hospitalized patients has been contributing to our understanding of the fundamentals of this important disease by providing a basis for research on CAP etiology, risks, and management.


Founding of the CAPNETZ network of competence

The CAPNETZ network of competence was founded in 2001. The corresponding concept was developed and executed by renowned professors Reinhard Marre (University of Ulm), Tobias Welte (Medical University of Hannover) und Norbert Suttorp (Charité Medical University Berlin) after winning the founding grant by the German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). 

The main challenge to be overcome by the new network was community-acquired pneumonia being a highly prevalent disease outside of an overarching clinical framework. In response, a central but decentralized organization was implemented with the headquarters as organizational unit coordinating the local clinical centres were patient recruitment takes place. Pivotal to the decentralized structure is a web-based high quality and high-performance certified data entry and content management system which facilitates real-time intra-network communication and data archiving in a standardized format. Additionally, appended biomaterials are collected at the clinical centres and stored at the central biomaterial-bank in Hannover where they remain available to the scientific community of the growing network. Biomaterials and patient data are cryptographically secured and connected to each other via pseudonyms which can be tracked only at the clinical centres.

So far, the CAP research network has collected data and biomaterials from over 14 000 adult CAP patients. Since 2020, the study protocol was amended to include Covid-19 patients with pneumonia in response to the extended demand of research on this novel pandemic disease.

Currently, the CAPNETZ study is the largest prospective study on the etiology of community-acquired pneumonia in Germany¹. The clinical centres in the network mainly comprise of university hospitals, general hospitals, and medical specialist offices in Germany. So far, also clinics in Denmark, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are active participants in the CAPNETZ study. An expansion into other European countries is planned.

¹ RKI Epidemiologisches Bulletin 36/2016


Establishment of the CAPNETZ STIFTUNG

With the establishment of the CAPNETZ STIFTUNG in 2007 the former CAPNETZ network of competence achieved its status as a research foundation and independence from its former BMBF funding to ensure its corporality and the continued pursuit of the founding goal.

The legal location of the foundation is the University of Ulm, and the University Clinics Berlin Charité and Hannover are joint funders. As independent foundation CAPNETZ STIFTUNG is eligible to apply for and to grant research funding. Besides financial sponsorship, research funding is mainly achieved by granting access to the CAPNETZ clinical research infrastructure, database, and biomaterials.

The management board of CAPNETZ upholds its managerial responsibility together with the executive leader who is located at the CAPNETZ STIFTUNG headquarters at the Medical School Hannover. 

The association to the DZL established in 2013 provides not only scientific collaboration but also financial support to the CAPNETZ foundation and its attached research infrastructure.

Cooperative research support

A tight cooperation and collaboration between researchers, clinicians and institutions within the growing CAPNETZ network are essential to the progress of CAPNETZ and CAP research. Particularly the connection to the DZL- association partner BREATH (Biomedical Research in Endstage and Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover) at the Medical School Hannover is the basis of intersectional study projects on CAP with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). Also joint study projects with other institutions and industry partners have been initiated and lay the groundwork of an increasingly interconnected and international research infrastructure.

The CAPNETZ database and biomaterial bank on CAP in adults and other study projects are and will continue to be an invaluable resource for researchers around the world. By providing access to these databases, the CAPNETZ foundation contributes to novel scientific queries upholding the values of transparency and accessibility to the scientific community across borders.