The original name of the society was the DNA Repair Network; at the 2004 general meeting we renamed ourselves as The German Society for Research on DNA Repair (DGDR).
In 1984, the DNA Repair Information Network was founded in Great Britain (with the support of the Cancer Research Campaign) as a very loose, informal coalition of researchers in the area of DNA repair. Soon afterwards, a number of other European countries joined this coalition. Each country had a coordinator who kept contact with the coalition, organized the needs of the local members, and distributed the bulletin which appeared once or twice a year. In Germany we were fortunate to have Marlis Frankenberg-Schwager (Göttingen) as coordinator from the very beginning, and she has kept us, the German section of the DNA Repair Network, in touch with the larger Network for many years.
In 1990, the first meeting of the German section of the “DNA Repair Network” took place at the GSF (National Research Centre for Environment and Health; formerly known as the German Research Centre for Radiation Research) in Neuherberg/Munich. The workshop “Molecular Radiation Biology: DNA Lesions, Their Repair and Biological Relevance” was held in honour of the 65th birthday of Professor Dr. Dr. Ulrich Hagen, a pioneer in the exploration of the role of DNA damage and its repair in the complex cellular reaction to radiation. The workshop differed, not only in content, but also in concept, from the traditional classical conferences focussing on radiobiological themes, which had been organized by the GSF at two-year intervals up until then. In order to emphasize the multidisciplinary aspects of radiation biology, young scientists and colleagues from associated fields of study were chosen for plenary presentations. Small workshops, with practical demonstrations in the lab, were organized which addressed top issues of the day, such as “Pulsed field gel electrophoresis” or “Gene Cloning”. Poster presentations were given high priority to encourage the active participation of doctorial students and post-doctoral graduates.
Any other format for our conferences would now be unthinkable. Professor Eckardt-Schupp organized the 1990 workshop and her ideas can be considered the mould for all future workshops.
“DNA Repair Workshops” and later on „DNA Repair Meetings“ have been held regularly every two years since 1990 with different main topics within the field of DNA repair:
- 1990: Munich (Friederike Eckardt-Schupp and Marlis Frankenberg-Schwager)
- 1992: Munich (Friederike Eckardt-Schupp and Marlis Frankenberg-Schwager)
- 1994: Göttingen (Marlis Frankenberg-Schwager)
- 1996: Hamburg (Ekkehard Dikomey)
- 1998: Mainz (Bernd Kaina)
- 2000: Essen (Jürgen Thomale)
- 2002: Karlsruhe (Andrea Hartwig)
- 2004: Ulm (Lisa Wiesmüller)
- 2006: Hamburg (Jochen Dahm-Daphi, Ekkehard Dikomey)
- 2008: Berlin (Martin Digweed)
- 2010: Jena (Frank Große)
The biennial meetings made it increasingly clear that there was an increasing need for a society that would promote DNA repair research in the German-speaking countries; would promote the activities of the interrelated research areas of DNA repair in various institutes and facilities; would organize conferences on the various themes within the field of DNA repair; and would facilitate communication and networking among members. At the 1998 general assembly in Mainz, the ‘DNA Repair Network e.V.’ (registered association) with the subtitle, ‘Society for Research on DNA Repair’, under the chairmanship of Bernd Kaina, was officially registered as a non-profit organization. The work of the highly dedicated board and the high profile of the workshops the society organized, as well as the increasing importance of the field itself, helped achieve more respect within Germany for DNA repair research. All these aspects led during the meeting chaired by Jürgen Thomale in Ulm in 2004 to the name change “German Society for Research on DNA Repair e.V.”. At this time, English was declared the official language of the workshops, allowing high standing international experts in the field to be invited as presenters and active participants to the meetings. Since 2007 there are also joint meetings with the „French Society of Genetic Toxicology“ (SFGT):
- German-French DNA Repair Meeting (2007) Tolouse (Bernard Salles)
- German-French DNA Repair Meeting (2009) Konstanz (Alexander Bürkle)
The DGDR promotes every kind of information exchange in the area of DNA repair research, whether in the form of smaller workshops on selected special topics, international symposia on broader themes, joint workshops with other societies, or simply through information-sharing via the website. Lisa Wiesmüller was the last president of the DGDR from 2006 to 2010; current president is Andrea Hartwig, KIT, Karlsruhe. The upcomming meeting in 2012 will be organized by Anna Friedl, Munich.