Berlin, September 15, 2013

Robert Koch Foundation confers awards on Professors Gordon and Fauci

In honor and recognition of their pioneering work on the analysis of microbes and the pathogenesis of HIV infection

How the gut's microbial 'house guests' ensure the well-being of the host / How patients benefit from decades of research into the HI virus

The Robert Koch Foundation has conferred the 2013 Robert Koch Award, worth 100,000 euros, on Professor Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon, Director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, USA. At the same time, the Foundation also awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal to Professor Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, USA for his life’s work. The awards were presented on 15 November 2013 by Karin Knufmann-Happe, Head of the 'Health Protection, Disease Control, Biomedicine' department at the Federal Ministry of Health, in the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Robert Koch Award

The microbiologist Jeffrey Gordon was honored for his pioneering work on the molecular analysis of microbial communities that live in the human gut. His work has contributed to our knowledge that microbes are not just 'enemies' to be dealt with because they can cause disease, but rather beneficial 'friends', and that we are a splendid amalgamation of microbial and human cells and genes. As such, microbes form an interactive alliance with the body, shaping many aspects of our physiology, metabolism and immunology. Professor Gordon's work on the genomic and metabolic foundations of our alliances with gut microbes has contributed significant new understanding about the basis for health and well-being, including our nutritional status, and has opened the door to new therapeutic approaches for 21st century medicine.

Robert Koch Gold Medal

Professor Fauci was awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life’s work in the field of HIV research. When, at the beginning of the 1980s, a mysterious disease became the center of public concern, the immunologist, together with his colleagues, set off in search of the infection's pathogenesis. With the identification of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of infected cells, Fauci was one of the first to describe immune regulation in the infection with HIV. The understanding of how the helper cells (CD4+ T-cells) of people infected with HIV are destroyed, formed the basis of antiretroviral therapy, knowledge that today means that patients have a significantly increased life expectancy. Fauci not only excelled through his research work, but also through initiatives such as the promotion of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which benefited millions of infected people, especially on the African continent. Fauci was also primarily responsible for devising a number of other programs to combat malaria, tuberculosis and influenza.

Postdoctoral awards for young scientists

Also presented at the ceremony were the Robert Koch Foundation Postdoctoral Awards for outstanding work by young scientists, which come with prize money of 5,000 euros each. The German Societies for Hygiene and Microbiology, Immunology and Virology are each entitled to nominate suitable candidates. Dr. rer. nat. Stefanie Eyerich from Munich received the Immunology Award for her research into the regulation of epithelial T-cell immune response. Dr. Luisa Fernanda Jimenez-Soto from Munich received the Microbiology Award in recognition of her research into the structure and function of the cag-type IV secretion system of Helicobacter pylori. The post-doctoral award for virology went to Dr. rer. nat. Hanna-Mari Baldauf from Frankfurt/Main for her investigation into the interaction between HI-viruses and defense cells.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the promotion of medical progress and is based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases, as well as exemplary projects that address medical and hygienic issues. Patron of the Foundation, which was founded in 1907, is German President Joachim Gauck. The Foundation confers a number of distinguished scientific awards each year: the Robert Koch Award – one of Germany's most distinguished scientific awards, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, for the first time this year, the Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention Award.

Robert Koch (1843 – 1910), after whom the award is named, was the founder of modern-day bacteriology, for which he was awarded the 1905 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. From 1891 until his retirement in 1904, Koch was Head of the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin.


Your contact at the Robert Koch Foundation:
Christine Howarth, telephone: +49 (0)30-468-11599, email

For photos and profiles of the award winners, visit www.robert-koch-stiftung.de/prizes2013

 

Berlin, September 4, 2013

Robert Koch Foundation awards Hospital Hygiene Prize for the first time
Learning from Münster: Prestigious award for Helge Karch

They are called MRSA or ESBL and they are increasingly dominating the headlines: dangerous bacteria that can survive an attack by most antibiotics. Such multi-resistant pathogens are spreading all the time and causing thousands of fatalities – also in German hospitals. Up to now, high-performance medicine has had little to offer to counter the threat.

The Münster model for hospital hygiene and infection prevention proves that targeted action does pay off. It shows that the risk can be contained if excellent basic researchers collaborate closely with hospitals and general practitioners within a region. The initiative was launched by a young team led by Professor Helge Karch at the University of Münster.

Karch and his team have today been awarded the 'Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention' by the Berlin-based Robert Koch Foundation for their pioneering work. The Director of the Institute of Hygiene at University Hospital, Münster, is the first winner of this newly created award, which is worth €50,000. The prize-giving ceremony took place in the ceremonial hall of Berlin City Hall in the presence of high-ranking personalities, including Thomas Ilka, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health. Before the ceremony, Federal Minister for Health Daniel Bahr (FDP) personally congratulated the prizewinner on receiving this prestigious award. “With this newly-created award, the Robert Koch Foundation has made an important contribution to improving hygiene and preventing infection in German hospitals”, said Bahr. Photos of the prizewinner together with Federal Minister for Health Daniel Bahr can be found here.

"By combining excellent science with rigorous measures in clinical practice, the winner and his team are making an exemplary contribution toward improving hospital hygiene in our country," said Hubertus Erlen, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation during the prize ceremony. The Münster model creates a close network between regional hospitals, nursing homes, general practitioners and patients' representatives on the one hand, and the University Hospital Münster on the other, with the goal of preventing the spread of dangerous germs. For example, on admission to the hospital, every patient is tested for MRSA and, if the test is positive, is treated in isolation until it is safe for him or her to be admitted to a normal ward. At the Institute of Hygiene an interdisciplinary team of about a hundred employees stand ready to examine new germs using state-of-the-art methods of molecular biology. Some of these procedures for determining the hazard potential of the germs were developed by the team led by Helge Karch and have spread all over the world.

It is worth all the effort – as demonstrated by the 2011 infection registration data for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia: the number of bloodstream infections by the particularly dangerous multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria were 57.6 per million inhabitants state-wide; in the Münster area, however, the incidence of these serious infections was much lower at 43.2 bloodstream infections per million.

Helge Karch's next project is to research how the bacterial pathogens of nosocomial (hospital-induced) infections manage to change so astonishingly quickly and simultaneously adapt to ever-new environmental conditions. "In addition, we are interested in the origins and distribution of these pathogens, which also occur outside the human body – for example in animals," said the microbiologist. "We still know very little about this."

The Münster model could be applied all over Germany, says Karch. The important thing was to be open to regional networking and interdisciplinary cooperation and to promote targeted research. "Unfortunately, there aren't many hygiene institutes in Germany. But I know no better health system in the world than the one we have here, so surely there's no reason why we shouldn't succeed in improving hospital hygiene?"

The award is financially supported by B. Braun Melsungen AG.

INFORMATION ON THE AWARD

Robert Koch dedicated his scientific work both to fundamental research and to applied infection prevention issues. The Robert Koch Foundation is committed to the legacy of Robert Koch and this is why, for the first time in 2013, the Robert Koch Foundation is awarding a prize endowed with 50,000 euros for excellent scientific research and practical measures in the field of hospital hygiene and infection prevention. In Germany, approximately 500,000 patients contract hospital infections each year, more than 10,000 cases of which are fatal. These statistics indicate that advanced medicine has reached its limits. Improvements in the implementation of hospital hygiene and the development of new strategies in therapy and the prevention of nosocomial infections are urgently needed. The aim of the prize is to draw attention to exemplary achievements in the field of hospital hygiene and infection prevention, It is intended to serve as an incentive to improve the standard of hygiene in our hospitals through new scientific and application-oriented projects.

INFORMATION ON THE ROBERT KOCH FOUNDATION

The Robert Koch Foundation is a Berlin-based charitable foundation for the promotion of medical progress. It funds scientific basic research in the field of infectious diseases, as well as exemplary projects aiming to solve medical and hygienic problems. Patron of the Foundation, which was founded in 1907, is Germany's Federal President Joachim Gauck.

Every year the Foundation awards several high-level scientific awards: the Robert Koch Prize, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists, and this year, for the first time, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention.

Robert Koch (1843 – 1910), after whom the prize is named, was the founder of modern bacteriology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch ran the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Contact at the Robert Koch Foundation:

Christine Howarth, Tel.: +49 (0)30 468-11599, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de