Data Privacy Statement Imprint Contact Deutsch   
Media

Press releases

May 15, 2024

  • Robert Koch Prize 2024 for Lalita Ramakrishnan
  • Lifetime achievement award: Stuart L. Schreiber to get Robert Koch Gold Medal
  • Save the date: Award ceremony on November 8, 2024 in Berlin

Robert Koch Prize 2024 for Lalita Ramakrishnan

Berlin – The Robert Koch Prize 2024, endowed with 120,000 Euro, will be awarded to Lalita Ramakrishnan. This is the first time since 2007 and the fourth time in the history of the award that a woman has received the accolade alone. Microbiologist Lalita Ramakrishnan is one of the top scientists in the field of tuberculosis research and is Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Cambridge. Stuart L. Schreiber, one of the world's most renowned researchers in the field of chemical biology, will be awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal as a lifetime achievement award. His laboratory is currently working on combating resistance in the treatment of various cancers.

"We are honored to recognize Prof. Dr. Lalita Ramakrishnan, a top scientist who is doing pioneering work in tuberculosis research," says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. "The disease is still one of the main causes of death, even though a live attenuated vaccine has been available for a century and effective antibiotics have been available for 60 years." The Robert Koch Foundation has made it its mission to use the awards to draw attention to particularly important areas of science and research. "Especially in times when there seems to be uncertainty in society about the reliability of medicine and the media, it is our task to inform people about the work that contributes to improving the quality of life of all people in the world," says Wolfgang Plischke.

Before Lalita Ramakrishnan, German woman Gertrud Meissner in 1965, Finnish woman Pirjo Helena Mäkelä in 1969 and most recently Dr. Pascale Cossart from France in 2007 had received the Robert Koch Award as women alone – not as part of a team.

"This year we are awarding the Robert Koch Gold Medal to Prof. Dr. Stuart L. Schreiber for his life's work," said Prof. Dr. Andreas Radbruch, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert Koch Foundation. "We are delighted to honor a researcher who is known worldwide as a luminary. He has made outstanding contributions to the understanding of the logic of signal transduction and gene regulation using small molecule probes. His discoveries have uncovered fundamental cellular signaling and gene regulation pathways and greatly enhanced the understanding of the role these pathways play in human disease."

The awards ceremony will take place on November 8, 2024 in Berlin.

The three winners of the Post-Doctoral Award will be announced at a later date.

More information:

The winner of the Robert Koch Prize 2024:
Lalita Ramakrishnan is an American microbiologist born in India in 1959 who is known for her contributions to the understanding of the biological mechanisms of tuberculosis. She has been Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Cambridge since 2019, where she is also a Welcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and practicing physician. She conducts research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and is head of the Molecular Immunity Unit in the Department of Medicine there.

Lalita Ramakrishnan is at the forefront of modern tuberculosis (TB) research worldwide. She has developed important tools to study the disease – most notably a robust zebrafish model that has led to groundbreaking insights into the interactions between bacteria and host during infection. Her team has used this knowledge to develop new treatments for TB and shape clinical research. Lalita Ramakrishnan discovered that the need for months of treatment with multiple drugs to cure tuberculosis arises because actively growing bacteria in the host's macrophages, which are white blood cells called phagocytes, activate efflux pumps that "pump out" the antibiotics, promoting bacterial survival.

By uncovering these complex interactions, Lalita Ramakrishnan and her colleagues have also improved our understanding of the basic biology of macrophages and other infectious diseases such as leprosy.

Alongside malaria and AIDS, tuberculosis is the most common infectious disease worldwide. TB ranks 13th on the list of the most common causes of death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around ten million people contract tuberculosis every year and around 1.5 million people die from it. In 2018 and 2019, Lalita Ramakrishnan co-authored two influential articles in the British Medical Journal in which she argued that the widely accepted estimates of the prevalence of latent tuberculosis – which serve as the basis for the allocation of research funding – are far too high.

The winner of the Robert Koch Gold Medal:
Stuart L. Schreiber received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1977 before going to Harvard University as a doctoral student in chemistry. He worked with Robert B. Woodward and continued his studies under the direction of Yoshito Kishi after Woodward's death. He received his doctorate there in 1981. He was a professor at Yale University until 1988, then moved to Harvard University as Morris Loeb Professor and has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1994. In 1997, he was the founding director of the Harvard Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology, which laid the foundation for the Broad Institute's Chemical Biology Program. He has been a founding member of the Broad Institute since 2003. He was awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life's work.

chreiber made outstanding contributions to the understanding of the logic of signal transduction and gene regulation using small molecule probes. These discoveries have uncovered fundamental cellular signaling and gene regulation pathways, greatly improving our understanding of the role these pathways play in human disease.

In current research, the Schreiber lab is investigating the mechanisms by which many cancers resist therapies. The lab is also investigating a new mechanism by which our brains maintain their health, as well as therapeutic agents that enhance the brain's protective mechanism. Stuart L. Schreiber has applied the principles of chemical biology to medicine by helping to found several biotech companies.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three postdoctoral prizes for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention. Furthermore, the sponsorship award of the city of Clausthal Zellerfeld is awarded every two years.

Information for editorial offices and the public:
The event will be streamed via LinkedIn, the profil is:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/

All posts relating to the event are tagged with the hashtag #RobertKochAward on social media.

In the podcast "Robert Koch Foundation", the award winners and other exciting personalities from the Foundation and the awards have their say. Wherever there are podcasts.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285,
E-Mail: geschaeftsstelle@robert-koch-stiftung.de

November 20, 2023

  • Timothy Springer and Francisco Sánchez-Madrid in Berlin have been awarded the Robert Koch Prize worth 120,000 Euro
  • Lifetime achievement award: Patrice Courvalin receives Robert Koch Gold Medal
  • Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach presents the prizes in his new role as patron of the Robert Koch Foundation

"Life is full of wonders - the Robert Koch Award winners have uncovered one of them"

Berlin - Prof. Dr. Timothy Springer and Prof. Dr. Francisco Sánchez-Madrid were awarded the Robert Koch Prize, endowed with 120,000 Euro, on Friday, November 17. Prof Dr. Patrice Courvalin received the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his lifetime achievement. Dr. Prerna Arora, Dr. Florian Wimmers and Dr. Lisa Kirchhoff received this year's prizes for postdoctoral researchers. The awards ceremony took place at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

"With this year's award winners, we are once again honoring outstanding scientists who have made fundamental discoveries," says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. "Life is full of miracles - one of which Timothy Springer and Francisco Sánchez-Madrid have uncovered."

Timothy Springer and Francisco Sánchez-Madrid were the first to jointly demonstrate the importance of cell adhesion molecules for the function of immune cells and to create new possibilities for the treatment of immune diseases with monoclonal antibodies against such molecules. "The most important thing tonight is therefore not the prizes," said the Federal Minister of Health and new patron of the Robert Koch Foundation, Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach. "But that millions of people can benefit from the achievements of these award- winning scientists and lead a life free of symptoms." Furthermore, science is the foundation on which everything begins, he said.

Lauterbach presented the winners with their awards and said: "This prize is gaining more and more international significance – it has already been an indication for a Nobel Prize 15 times. As it is now." Drew Weissman, one of the 2022 winners, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology this year.

The Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert Koch Foundation, Prof. Dr. Andreas Radbruch, gave the laudatory speech for the two award winners. He said of Timothy Springer and Francisco Sánchez-Madrid: "Their discovery of cell recognition molecules was the first ever, not only in immunology, but also in cell biology. It was a revolution! It changed the scientific community's view of how cells interact with other cells."

Francisco Sánchez-Madrid said he felt doubly honored: "What a special moment it is to receive this award – together with my mentor and friend Tim Springer." Praise that Springer returned directly to him. Like all the award winners, the US-American expressly thanked his team, and also his wife and his family. "We have been working together in a laboratory for so many years and we still love each other," smiled Prof. Dr. Patrice Courvalin as he thanked his wife. He is one of the world's most renowned researchers in the field of antibiotic resistance and has been awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his lifetime achievement.

In her laudatory speech for her doctoral supervisor, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Director of the Max Planck Research Unit for the Science of Pathogens and 2020 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, said: "Patrice Courvalin has devoted his life to the molecular understanding of resistance to a variety of antibiotics in bacteria, focusing on bacterial pathogens that cause disease in humans. Among his and his team’s greatest contributions to this field are the pioneering discovery and characterization of antibiotic resistance plasmids in Gram-positive bacterial pathogens, as well as the comprehensive analysis of resistance mechanisms that modify various sites on aminoglycoside antibiotics, activities that compromised the main bactericidal therapy of the time for enterococcal infections, namely the synergy between a beta-lactam and an aminoglycoside antibiotic.“

The fact that young scientists also receive a special award every year was cited by all the laudators as another reason to celebrate. Lauterbach: "I think the achievements of such young scientists and the ideas they have are fantastic." Wolfgang Plischke had already expressed his "respect for the extraordinary achievements" of the young scientists during the opening of the ceremony.

Dr. Prerna Arora, Dr. Florian Wimmers and Dr. Lisa Kirchhoff received the 2023 Postdoctoral Awards for Virology, Immunology and Microbiology as "the best of the best" (Radbruch).

The day before, both Robert Koch Prize winners Springer and Sánchez-Madrid as well as Courvalin had given lectures on their work at the Charité. The Spaniard spoke about "Intercellular communication in the immune response: Transfer of genetic information during synapsis", his US colleague spoke very entertainingly about "The soul of the integrin machine" and the Frenchman gave a lecture on the "The evolution of glycopeptide resistance".

More information:

The winners of the Robert Koch Award 2023:
Timothy Alan Springer is an American immunologist and professor at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He comes from Fort Benning, Georgia, and studied biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, before completing his doctorate at Harvard in 1976. He has been a professor at Harvard Medical School since 1977. Together with Francisco Sánchez-Madrid, he discovered integrins, proteins that connect cells to each other and are of crucial importance for the function of these cells, such as for the migration of cells from the blood into the tissue, as he was able to show for the first time. Monoclonal antibodies developed by them against certain integrins proved to be effective against chronic inflammation. For example, in multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Today, he is interested in the question of how integrins and other adhesion molecules are activated for binding and how this creates a "synapse" between two cells.

Francisco Sánchez-Madrid is a Spanish immunologist. He received his doctorate from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 1980. He then worked for several years at the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Together with Timothy Springer, he identified integrins that control the adhesion, polarity and activation of leukocytes and thus made a decisive contribution to the development of therapies for multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. He has been Professor of Immunology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid since 1990. His other research work has made a decisive contribution to understanding the function of immunological synapses, i.e. the structures with which immune cells communicate with each other or with other cells.

This work is of fundamental importance for understanding the immune system and its reactions. Timothy Springer and Francisco Sánchez-Madrid will be jointly awarded the Robert Koch Prize 2023, endowed with 120,000 Euro.

Robert Koch Gold Medal
Patrice Courvalin is awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal. He is Emeritus Head of the Department of Antibacterial Agents and Professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. His life's work is a molecular understanding of a multitude of resistances to antibiotics in bacteria. He was able to show that and how bacteria can exchange resistance genes with each other and how resistance spreads very quickly, that bacteria can even take over resistance genes from antibiotic producers, which actually protect themselves, and that they can also pass on resistance genes to other organisms. These findings were and are of great practical importance for the development and use of antibiotics in practice. The laudatory speech was held by Nobel Prize winner Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three postdoctoral prizes for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention. Furthermore, the sponsorship award of the city of Clausthal Zellerfeld is awarded every two years.

Information for editorial offices and the public:
he recording of the award ceremony is available at https://www.robert-koch-stiftung.de to see. All posts relating to the event are tagged with the hashtag #RobertKochAward on social media.

In the podcast "Robert Koch Foundation", the award winners and other exciting personalities from the Foundation and the awards have their say. Wherever there are podcasts.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285,
E-Mail: geschaeftsstelle@robert-koch-stiftung.de

October 17, 2023

„We are delighted with this news and we’d like to express our congratulations from the bottom of our hearts.“
– Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke

Berlin - This year's Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology goes to Katalin Karikó and to the 2022 Robert Koch Prize winner, Drew Weissman.

Both work at the University of Pennsylvania and have made a decisive contribution to the management of the Corona pandemic with the development of the mRNA vaccines. The transfer of nucleic acids into cells is a forward-looking technology for use in infectious diseases, but also in gene therapy and the treatment of cancer.

"We are delighted by this news and congratulate Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman from the bottom of our hearts," said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. "Last year we awarded Prof. Dr. Drew Weissman the Robert Koch Prize together with Dr. Philip Felgner, and this year he gets the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. The Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert Koch Foundation and the Board of Directors always select top-class scientists from Germany and abroad - and now, again, they have demonstrated the right instinct for groundbreaking work by the most relevant scientists."

In the past, the Robert Koch Prize has repeatedly been an unofficial indication for the Nobel Prize – since 1975, 14 Robert Koch Prize winners have been honored with the Swedish award donated by Alfred Nobel.

The Robert Koch Prize 2023 will be awarded to Timothy Springer and Francisco Sanchez-Madrid. The two were the first to demonstrate the importance of cell adhesion molecules for the function of immune cells. Together they have created new possibilities for the treatment of immune diseases with monoclonal antibodies against such molecules. Patrice Courvalin, one of the world's most renowned researchers in the field of antibiotic resistance, will receive the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life's work. The awards ceremony will take place in Berlin on November 17, 2023.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three postdoctoral prizes for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention. Furthermore, the sponsorship award of the city of Clausthal Zellerfeld is awarded every two years.

Robert Koch (1843 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded mod-ern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Information for editors and the public:
Save the date: The Robert Koch Award and Gold Medal Ceremony will take place in Berlin, on Friday, 17th November 2023, at 4:30 pm at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Jägerstraße 22-23, 10117 Berlin).

The event will be streamed via LinkedIn, the profiles are:
LinkedIn: "https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

All posts around the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.

Im Podcast „Robert-Koch-Stiftung“ kommen die Preisträger*innen und andere spannende Persönlichkeiten rund um die Stiftung und die Auszeichnungen zu Wort. Überall dort, wo es Podcasts gibt. In the podcast "Robert Koch Foundation", the award winners and other exciting personalities from the Foundation and the awards have their say. Wherever there are podcasts.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285,
E-Mail: geschaeftsstelle@robert-koch-stiftung.de

April 17, 2023

  • Robert Koch Prize 2023 for Timothy Springer and Francisco Sanchez-Madrid
  • Lifetime achievement award: Patrice Courvalin to receive Robert Koch Gold Medal
  • Save the date: Award ceremony on 17 November 2023 in Berlin
Berlin - The Robert Koch Prize 2023 will be awarded to Timothy Springer and Francisco Sanchez-Madrid. Together and as the first to do so, they have demonstrated the importance of cell adhesion molecules for the function of immune cells and have created new possibilities for the treatment of immune diseases with monoclonal antibodies against such molecules. Patrice Courvalin, one of the world's most renowned researchers in the field of antibiotic resistance, will receive the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life's work. The awards ceremony will take place on the 17th of November 2023 in Berlin.

"With this year's prizewinners, we are honouring two world-famous pioneers of immunology," says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. "In the pandemic of the last few years, autoimmune diseases have slowly moved more into the focus of public interest - yet scientists have been researching in this field for decades. With this year's Robert Koch Prize, we want to draw special attention to the out-standing work in immunology. With the lifetime achievement award, we are also showing that the importance of antibiotic resistance research continues to develop undiminished.

As Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert Koch Foundation, Prof. Dr. Andreas Radbruch adds: "Tim Springer and Francisco Sanches-Madrid have done pioneering work in researching the proteins that immune cells use to dock with other cells. These proteins are of central importance for the function of immune cells. Only in this way can immune cells protect us during infections, for example by killing virus-infected cells. Diseases caused by misdirected immune reactions, e.g. autoimmune diseases, can be treated by blocking these adhesion molecules. Here, the prize winners have developed the first monoclonal anti-bodies, which are now used as drugs. Patrice Courvalin has dedicated his life's work to researching bacterial resistance to antibiotics. With him, we honour a researcher who has significantly shaped this field of eminent practical importance over the past decades."

The winners of the Robert Koch Prize 2023:

Timothy Alan Springer is an American immunologist and professor at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He comes from Fort Benning, Georgia, and studied biochemistry in Berkeley at the University of California before receiving his doctorate from Harvard in 1976. He has been a professor at Harvard Medical School since 1977. Together with Francisco Sanchez-Madrid, he discovered integrins, proteins that connect cells and are crucial for the function of these cells, such as the migration of cells from the blood into the tissue, as he was able to show for the first time. Monoclonal antibodies developed by them against certain integrins proved to be effective against chronic inflammations. For example, in multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases. Today, he is interested in the question of how integrins and other adhesion molecules are activated for binding, and how a "synapse" between two cells is created in this way.

Francisco Sanchez-Madrid is a Spanish immunologist. He received his PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 1980. He then worked for several years at the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Together with Timothy Springer, he identified integrins that control the adhesion, polarity and activation of leukocytes and thus made a decisive contribution to the development of therapies for multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. Since 1990, he has been Professor of Immunology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. His further research has made a decisive contribution to understanding the function of immunological synapses, i.e. the structures with which immune cells communicate with each other or with other cells.

This work is of fundamental importance for understanding the immune system and its reactions. Timothy Springer and Francisco Sanchez-Madrid will be jointly awarded the Robert Koch Prize 2023, which is endowed with 120,000 euros. The Nobel Laureate Professor Jules Hoffmann will give the laudation.

Robert Koch Medal in Gold

Patrice Courvalin is awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal. He is the emeritus head of the department of antibacterial agents and professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. His life's work is a molecular understanding of a variety of resistances to antibiotics in bacteria. He was able to show that and how bacteria can exchange resistance genes among themselves, and how resistance spreads very quickly in this way, that bacteria can even adopt resistance genes from antibiotic producers, which actually protect themselves in this way, and that they can also pass on resistance genes themselves to other organisms. These findings were and are of great practical importance for the development and use of antibiotics in practice. The Nobel Prize winner Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier will give the laudatory speech.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three postdoctoral prizes for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention. Furthermore, the sponsorship award of the city of Clausthal Zellerfeld is awarded every two years.

Robert Koch (1843 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded mod-ern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Information for editors and the public:
Save the date: The Robert Koch Award and Gold Medal Ceremony will take place in Berlin, on Friday, 17th November 2023, at 4:30 pm at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Jägerstraße 22-23, 10117 Berlin).

The event will be streamed via LinkedIn, the profiles are:
LinkedIn: "https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

All posts around the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.

Im Podcast „Robert-Koch-Stiftung“ kommen die Preisträger*innen und andere spannende Persönlichkeiten rund um die Stiftung und die Auszeichnungen zu Wort. Überall dort, wo es Podcasts gibt. In the podcast "Robert Koch Foundation", the award winners and other exciting personalities from the Foundation and the awards have their say. Wherever there are podcasts.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285,
E-Mail: geschaeftsstelle@robert-koch-stiftung.de

November 13, 2022

  • Robert Koch Prize 2022 for Philip Felgner and Drew Weissman
  • Honor for his life's work: Robert Koch Medal in Gold for Jörg Hacker
  • Prizes for three post-doctoral students 2022: Anna Both, Moritz Gaidt and Paul Wratil
  • 25th Anniversary of the Post-Doctoral Award: Two-day symposium
Berlin - "The future of mRNA is enormous," said Prof. Dr. Drew Weissman in his acceptance speech during the festive award ceremony at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. Together with lipofection developer Dr. Philip Felgner, the pioneer in the field of mRNA therapies has now been awarded the Robert Koch Prize, which is endowed with 120,000 euros. Prof. Dr. Jörg Hacker received the Robert Koch Medal in Gold for his life's work. The speech was given by Federal Minister of Health Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach.

"We still face major challenges in the fight against infectious diseases. " With these words, the Chairman of the Board of the Robert Koch Foundation, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, opened the ceremony. "Significant changes in medical practice have many mothers and fathers, but are usually only possible on the basis of fundamental scientific discoveries. Today we honor researchers who have made such fundamental discoveries, the Robert Koch Award winners Professor Felgner and Professor Weissman."

Before the "big" prizes were awarded, the Robert Koch Foundation honored young scientists. The Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board, Prof. Dr. Andreas Radbruch, introduced Dr. Anna Both, Dr. Paul Wratil and Dr. Moritz Gaidt and their work and presented them with the Postdoctoral Award 2022 for Microbiology, Virology and Immunology, respectively. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros each.

"Millions of lives saved"

"There is a magic to this prize," said Karl Lauterbach about the fact that the Robert Koch Prize has been a "prediction" for the Nobel Prize 14 times already. The scientific advisory board of the Robert Koch Foundation often makes a "pinpoint selection" when deciding on the winners. It is also noteworthy that the work of this year's laureates and their teams have "saved the lives of millions of people“.

Drew Weissman, a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in the USA, succeeded in modifying mRNA in such a way that it is no longer recognized by cells as foreign and therefore no longer triggers a defense reaction. This has enabled mRNA vaccines to play a crucial role in overcoming the Corona pandemic. "But this award is not for me alone - it is absolutely an award for my lab colleagues and my team," says Drew Weissman.

"I've been looking forward to this moment every day for months," Philip Felgner (director of the Irvine Vaccine Research and Development Center and the Protein Microarray Laboratory and Training Facility at University of California, USA) said in his speech. "I grew up in a time when technologies were developing rapidly. Being involved in science to this day has always been rewarding for me, but to have the opportunity to interact with so many other scientists at events like this is a gift.“ Philip Felgner was honored for the development of lipofection, a technology that is not only the basis of modern mRNA vaccines, but is also widely used in basic research and is a key medical technology for delivering drugs into cells.

"Jörg Hacker: Germany's most important microbiologist".

"He is Germany's most important microbiologist," said Prof. Sebastian Suerbaum, MD, of the Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board, in his laudatory speech about Jörg Hacker, who was awarded the Robert Koch Medal for his life's work. "His vita reads like the history of German virology, immunology and vaccinology. " Jörg Hacker was not only a role model as head of the Institute for Molecular Infection Biology in Würzburg, as president of the Robert Koch Institute and as president of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, but was also a very special person, well-read, clever as well as always helpful, modest and loyal, he said.

In his acceptance speech, Jörg Hacker said: "Robert Koch was a gifted scientist and a role model for me. This award is a great honor for me. My life's journey was always supported by collegial friendships and by my family."

The day before, many of the post-docs of the past 25 years had already arrived for a series of exciting lectures from their colleagues. "The symposium was an extraordinarily successful 'meeting'," said Wolfgang Plischke during the ceremony on Friday, assessing the preceding two-day alumni meeting of the post-doc award winners on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the award. The alumni symposium was organized by virologist Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, microbiologist Prof. Dr. Mathias Hornef and immunologist Prof. Dr. Max Löhning.

The Robert Koch Award ceremony was streamed live on the Internet. The evening was hosted by science journalist Christina Satori, with Julia Raphaela Kasprzak on the violin providing the musical accompaniment.

Information for editorial offices and journalists:
All posts around the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.Y ou can subscribe to the press releases of the Robert Koch Foundation here.

Please follow the Foundation on Twitter at @RKStiftung. More information about the award winners is also available in their own words in the Foundation's podcast: https://www.robert-koch-stiftung.de

Contact:
Mareike Graepel, Tel: +49 (0)1520-4788752, E-Mail: info@mareikegraepel.com

08. September 2022

  • Award ceremony in Berlin: Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention 2022 for Geneva professor Stephan Harbarth
  • Award was internationally announced for the first time
  • Nosocomial infections cost 1.5 billion Euro per year
  • "Maybe there is peace in microbiologist heaven now".
Berlin, 8. September 2022 – Prof. Dr Stephan Harbarth has been awarded the Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention 2022, worth 50,000 Euro. In his acceptance speech at the St. Elisabeth Church in Berlin, the Geneva professor with roots in the Allgäu region expressed a clear wish: "Better screening, even of asymptomatic patients, in Germany."

The Chairman of the Board of the Robert Koch Foundation e.V., Prof. Dr Wolfgang Plischke spoke at the beginning about the historical relevance of the prize. "This prize is very much in the tradition of Robert Koch, who was appointed the first professor of the Hygiene Institute of the Medical Faculty of Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin in 1885," he said, pointing out that the challenges of the past "have not disappeared". "The pandemic has revealed that. "

"We have seen many trends in recent years that run contrary to transparent practices around the world," said Dr Meinrad Lugan, Member of the Board at B. Braun SE, underlining the importance of the award, also for society and politics. "That is why it is intended to create transparency in research and results and serve as an incentive. "In addition to the medical problems caused by nosocomial infections, Prof. Dr. Christian Straub, Chairman of the Board of BARMER GEK, also mentioned economic factors for the relevance of hospital hygiene and infection prevention: "Every year, 1.5 billion Euro in additional costs are incurred because of these infections and multi-resistant germs."

B. Braun SE and BARMER GEK together provide the prize money for the award, which is endowed with 50,000 Euro.

Stephan Schwartze, Member of the Bundestag, was on hand as the Federal Government Commissioner for Patients' Affairs. He congratulated the award winner and described Stephan Harbarth's work as "deeply impressive", calling his commitment "exemplary": "There is still a lot to do. This prize carries enormous weight."

"Fewer new antibiotics are being developed at the moment, or if they are, they are 'cousins' of already known classes of antibiotics to which germs quickly become resistant," Prof Harbarth said in a short film about his life. "We need original, creative developments in the field of antibiotics. " Prof. Dr Petra Gastmeier from the Charité gave the laudatory speech for Stephan Harbarth. As a long-time colleague and companion, she had nominated him for the award - because he deserved to be honoured not only for his research successes, but also for his tenacity in tackling international challenges when cultural differences and legal issues made the work more difficult, and because he initiated a lot of change, in the name of his colleagues, too. "I checked: With over 50 fellows in Australia, Asia and South America, among other places“ Harbarth has given a lot of impetus to young researchers and "very much deserves this award", she said.

Stephan Harbarth is a professor at the University of Geneva responsible for all aspects of hospital epidemiology and infection control in the Department of Internal Medicine at Geneva University Hospitals. His main interest is in the epidemiology, transmission and prevention of infections caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms, pathogens that are immune to multiple antibiotics and are therefore a major problem in hospitals.

"A prize like this is never an individual achievement, but a team effort," said Prof. Dr Stefan Harbarth, thanking his staff after Prof. Dr Wolfgang Plischke and Prof. Dr Andreas Radbruch presented him with the prize on behalf of the Robert Koch Foundation. "I am grateful for many opportunities I have in Geneva. " He went on to thank the Foundation, his family, his wife, who always granted him "academic freedom", and his mentors such as Prof. Dr Don Goldmann in Boston, USA, and Prof. Dr Didier Pittet in Geneva.

Stephan Harbarth dedicated his prize to the German-French scientific friendship, because: "It was 140 years ago to the month that Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch came to blows at a hygiene congress in Geneva because of a translation error. "Koch had believed that Pasteur had called the Germans "arrogant" or "presumptious". Throughout their lives, they were at each other in scientific journals. "If we dedicate this award to Pasteur and Koch together, the two of them might become friends up there in microbiologist heaven," Stephan Harbarth added with a twinkle in his eye.

In a short live talk with the evening's moderator, science journalist Christina Sartori, Stephan Harbarth and Andreas Radbruch spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the development of work in the field of hospital hygiene and infection prevention. "The pandemic has been 'louder' in recent years than the 'silent pandemic' of hospital germs," said Stephan Harbarth. But there are also good things, he said: "Now we have studies looking at nosocomial infections in the context of Covid."

For the first time, the prize, which is awarded by the Robert Koch Foundation every two years, was also announced internationally. The background: "There are so many good candidates," said Andreas Radbruch at the end of the award ceremony.

Ian Istomin, a student at the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Music High School in Berlin, a young student at the Academy of Arts and a scholarship holder of the Jürgen Ponto Foundation, played "Image op. 38" by Eugène Bozza at the start and "Fantasia Nr 2" by Georg Philipp Telemann at the end of the award-giving ceremony, on the transverse flute.

ABOUT STEPHAN HARBARTH:

Prof. Dr Stephan Harbarth is a professor at the University of Geneva and responsible for all aspects of hospital epidemiology and infection control in the Department of Internal Medicine at Geneva University Hospitals.

His main interest is the epidemiology, transmission and prevention of infections caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms, pathogens that are immune to multiple antibiotics and therefore represent a major problem in hospitals. His first study in this field was published in 1999. Since then, he has investigated the effectiveness and combination of infection control measures, measures for the detection, typing and elimination of such pathogens, especially methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Stephan Harbarth always kept in mind the threat to public health posed by pathogens that are resistant to several antibiotics at the same time (MDRO: multi-drug resistant organisms) and the health economic aspects and incentives to develop new antibiotics.

In addition to his scientific excellence, Stephan Harbarth is also an outstanding author, a valued speaker at international conferences, known for his clear and substantive evidence-based statements on infection control measures.

He is on the editorial board of high-ranking journals and organises the global congress ICPIC in Geneva (International Congress of Prevention and Infection Control) with 1,000 participants representing not only hospitals from privileged countries but also those from low-income countries.

As a member of "SWISS noso", he works as part of the team to develop recommendations for infection prevention in Switzerland and has served as a scientific advisor to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and JPIAMR (Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance).

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention.

Robert Koch (1843 - 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded modern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Further information:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

Want to know more? Then the new podcast of the Robert Koch Foundation is worth a listen: Scientists talk about their jobs in an exciting and comprehensible way. The first episodes are available at https://www.robert-koch-stiftung.de, and on all popular podcast platforms.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

August 11, 2022

  • From the jury decision: "A remarkable scientist in hospital epidemiology and infection control in Europe".
  • Prize worth 50,000 Euro to be awarded in Berlin on 6 September
Berlin, August 11, 2022 – Stephan Harbarth will receive the Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention 2022. The 50,000 Euro prize will be awarded on 6 September in Berlin - one year late due to the pandemic. The jury describes the Swiss scientist as "remarkable" and his work as extensive and instrumental in the development of hospital hygiene.

Prof. Dr Stephan Harbarth is a professor at the University of Geneva and responsible for all aspects of hospital epidemiology and infection control in the Department of Internal Medicine at Geneva University Hospitals. He will receive the Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention 2022, awarded every two years and endowed with 50,000 Euro, for "extensive and continuous work in the field of hospital epidemiology and infection control in Europe to improve the scientific basis of infection control measures". Stephan Harbarth has significantly influenced developments in this field over the past 20 years. The award is a great tribute to the research work of this remarkable scientist.

His main interest is the epidemiology, transmission and prevention of infections caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms, pathogens that are immune to multiple antibiotics and therefore represent a major problem in hospitals. His first study in this field was published in 1999. Since then, he has investigated the effectiveness and combination of infection control measures, measures for the detection, typing and elimination of such pathogens, especially methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Stephan Harbarth always kept in mind the threat to public health posed by pathogens that are resistant to several antibiotics at the same time (MDRO: multi-drug resistant organisms) and the health economic aspects and incentives to develop new antibiotics.

In addition to his scientific excellence, Stephan Harbarth is also an outstanding author, a valued speaker at international conferences, known for his clear and substantive evidence-based statements on infection control measures.

He is on the editorial board of high-ranking journals and organises the global congress ICPIC in Geneva (International Congress of Prevention and Infection Control) with 1,000 participants representing not only hospitals from privileged countries but also those from low-income countries.

As a member of "SWISSnoso", he works as part of the team to develop recommendations for infection prevention in Switzerland and has served as a scientific advisor to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and JPIAMR (Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance).

Award is both an honour and a motivation: preventing hospital-acquired infections saves thousands of lives every year

With the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention, the Robert Koch Foundation honours published work of the past years, but also wants to contribute to the initiation of new projects.

"This prize is both an honour and a motivation," says Chairman of the Board Prof. Dr Wolfgang Plischke. "In Germany, about half a million patients fall ill with hospital-acquired infections every year - more than 10,000 of them with a fatal outcome.“ These are dramatic figures.

"An improvement of hospital hygiene measures and new strategies for the therapy and prevention of infections acquired in connection with a medical procedure are urgently needed."

The Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention is financially supported by B. Braun SE and BARMER, which provide the prize money of 50,000 Euro.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygiene problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention.

Robert Koch (1843 - 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded modern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Information for editors and the public:

Save the date: The award ceremony of the Robert Koch Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention 2022 will take place on 6 September at 4 pm at the St. Elisabeth Kirche (Invalidenstr. 3, 10115 Berlin).

The event will be streamed on LinkedIn, the profiles are:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

All posts around the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

April 26, 2022

Robert Koch Prize 2022 for Philip Felgner and Drew Weissman

  • Lifetime achievement award: Jörg Hacker receives Robert Koch Medal in Gold
  • Save the date: Award ceremony on November 11, 2022 in Berlin
Berlin – The Robert Koch Prize 2022 will be awarded to Philip Felgner and Drew Weissman. The two US scientists are being honored for fundamental contributions to the transfer of nucleic acids into cells – a pioneering technology for use in infectious diseases, but also in gene therapy and the treatment of cancer. Thus helping to create mRNA vaccines which played a crucial role in the management of the Corona pandemic. The award ceremony will take place in Berlin on November 11, 2022

"When the public talks about sensational developments that save the lives of thousands and even millions of people, scientists already have spent many long years of research and tireless and patient work. Often experiencing obstacles and detours on their way before they reach their goal," says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. „Therefore, this year, we are honoring two scientists whose groundbreaking work is currently having a major impact on the development of vaccines – and at the same time we want to send a signal that, in addition to fighting the Corona pandemic, research into vaccines is also paving the way for protecting people from other diseases."

Prof. Dr. Andreas Radbruch, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert Koch Foundation, adds: "With Philip Felgner and Drew Weissman, we honor two scientists who were the first to make the medical use of biological information carriers, nucleic acids, possible. They have developed methods to introduce these 'messengers' into cells, and to prevent the cells' natural defense response."

The winners of the Robert Koch Prize 2022:

Dr. Philip Felgner is the director of the University of California, USA, Irvine Vaccine Research and Development Center and Protein Microarray Laboratory and Training Facility. His research areas are the structure and function of cell membranes, which create order in the cell, and how to introduce substances into cells.

Philip Felgner is awarded the Robert Koch Prize 2022 for the development of lipofection, a technology in which active ingredients are packaged in socalled liposomes, i.e. surrounded by a membrane that resembles the cell membrane. On contact with a cell, the membranes of the liposome and the cell fuse. This is how the active ingredient is introduced into the cell. As early as 1989, Philip Felgner successfully introduced nucleic acids into cells this way, and showed that the cells then also produce the proteins whose blueprints the nucleic acids encode. Liposome technology is not only the basis of modern mRNA vaccines, it is widely used in basic research and is a key technology in medicine for introducing active substances into cells.

Prof. Dr. Drew Weissman is Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. He is a pioneer in the field of mRNA therapies.

If nucleic acids are introduced into cells, they are recognized by the cells as foreign and the cells react as if they were infected with a virus. Together with Katalin Karikó, who was awarded the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize this year, Drew Weissman succeeded in modifying mRNA in such a way that it is no longer recognized as foreign by the cells and therefore no longer triggers a defense reaction. In the process, certain natural building blocks of the nucleic acids are replaced by unconventional building blocks. This development made the widespread use of mRNA vaccines possible for the first time, because it made the side effects acceptable.

Philip Felgner and Drew Weismann will be jointly awarded the Robert Koch Prize 2022, which is endowed with 120,000 Euro.

Robert Koch Medal in Gold

Prof. Dr. Jörg Hacker has dedicated his life to science and the promotion of science in an outstanding way and is being awarded the Robert Koch Medal in Gold for his life achievements.

Jörg Hacker is "not only an outstanding scientist," the then Federal Minister of Health, Ulla Schmidt, said of him in 2008. "He knows how to share his findings with others and to communicate science in a way that people outside his field can understand."

Jörg Hacker is a pioneer in molecular infection research. In 1983, he described the so-called "pathogenicity islands" of bacteria, genetic elements that contain several genes that can, for example, trigger a disease in us in a coordinated manner. These genetic elements are only loosely anchored in the genome of bacteria, or they are even passed on separately. They can be easily exchanged between bacteria. Thus, harmless bacteria can very quickly evolve into dangerous pathogens. Or bacteria can exchange genes that make them resistant to antibiotics. Through his research, Jörg Hacker has made a decisive contribution to understanding the evolution of microbial pathogens.

After studying in Halle, Jörg Hacker worked at the University of Würzburg from 1980, and from 1993 as head of the Institute for Molecular Infection Biology. From 2008 to 2010 he was president of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, and from 2010 to 2020 president of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Under his aegis, the Leopoldina evolved into the German Academy of Science, the national, independent advisory body it is today. In his many roles as a shaper of science, Jörg Hacker has made a unique contribution to the development of the framework conditions for research in Germany.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, established in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygienic problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention.

Robert Koch (1843 - 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded modern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Information for editors and the public:

Save the date: The Robert Koch Award and Gold Medal Ceremony will take place in Berlin, on Friday, November 11, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Jägerstraße 22-23, 10117 Berlin).

The event will be streamed on LinkedIn, the profiles are:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

All posts around the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

November 22, 2021

  • Robert Koch Prize 2021 for Yasmine Belkaid and Andreas Bäumler double ceremony also honors last year's winners Shimon Sakaguchi and Thomas F. Meyer
  • Robert Koch Gold Medal 2021 for Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou
  • Post-Doctoral Student Awards 2021: Megan Stanifer, Kilian Schober and Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler
  • Awards for Post-Doctoral Students 2020: Petra Bacher, Stephanie Pfänder, Michael Sigal
Berlin – In a double ceremony and for the first time in conjunction with a live discussion with the Scientific Advisory Board, the Robert Koch Prize 2021, the Robert Koch Gold Medal 2021, and the awards for the post-doctoral fellows of the year have been presented at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Since last year's award ceremony could only take place online, the Foundation had also invited the award winners from 2020 and honored them in person.

"For the first time in the history of the Foundation, we are streaming this event on the Internet this year," explained the Chairman of the Board of the Robert Koch Foundation, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, in his welcome address at the hybrid award ceremony. „Not only because not all guests can be on site, but also to open ourselves equally to all people who are interested in research. The pandemic shows how important science is to the general public." He sees previous laureates present in the media almost daily today who are intensively involved in Covid 19 research, such as Prof. Dr. Antonio Lanzavecchia and Prof. Dr. Rafi Ahmed (Robert Koch Prize 2017), Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten (Postdoctoral Prize 2004) and Prof. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (Robert Koch Medal in Gold 2013), among others.

Honorary doctorate of Robert Koch found in an old desk

The President of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Prof. Dr. Gerald H. Haug, quoted from Robert Koch's speech on the occasion of his Nobel Prize in 1905 with regard to the fight against tuberculosis: "If the work is continued in this powerful way, victory must soon be won. " Unfortunately, he said, this has not yet come true; ten million people still contract the lung disease every year, and 1.5 million of them die from it. "That is why the importance of research in a pandemic cannot be praised highly enough. “

Prof. Dr. Dr. Christoph Markschies, who was broadcasting from San Francisco, explained how he found Robert Koch's honorary doctorate certificate in an old desk - and how tangible and important the inspiration from the foundation's namesake is for research. Now it is not just for experts in virology, immunology and microbiology.

Due to the 2020 ceremonies being moved to the internet, the Robert Koch Foundation first honoured the previous year's award winners now partly in attendance: Prof. Dr. Shimon Sakaguchi (Robert Koch Prize 2020) was unfortunately unable to attend in person, but Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Meyer (Robert Koch Gold Medal 2020) was on hand. He said, "Science always has a people-bonding element. " Prof. Dr. Stephanie Pfänder accepted the post-doctoral awards for herself and Prof. Dr. Petra Bacher and as well as for post-doctoral researcher Dr. Michael Sigal, who both could not be present.

With Dr. Megan Stanifer, Dr. Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler and Dr. Kilian Schober, two young scientists and one young researcher received the prize for post-doctoral students 2021, which is endowed with 5,000 euros. The science journalist Christina Sartori, who moderated the ceremony, spoke with all three about details of their work and had them explain the background and goals of their research. .

"We need to confront the tone in society"

Prof. Dr. Yasmine Belkaid and Prof. Dr. Andreas Bäumler together received this year's Robert Koch Prize, which is endowed with 120,000 euros. They had first presented their groundbreaking research results to an audience of over 100 scientists in online lectures in the morning.

Before this year's prizewinners received their prizes in a festive ceremony, for the first time, instead of individual laudations, there was a round of talks with the scientific advisory board, represented by Prof. Dr. Heidrun Moll from the Institute of Molecular Infection Biology in Würzburg, Prof. Dr. Dr. Jürgen Heesemann from the Max von Pettenkofer Institute for Hygiene in Munich and Prof. Dr. Peter Hammann from Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH in Frankfurt.

In his laudation of the award winner, State Secretary Dr. Thomas Gebhardt said on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health: "We all have a lot to thank science for, especially during the pandemic; every week we learn something new. " He added that it was an important signal that the award ceremony was taking place in this form. "The perception of science among the general public has changed: Today virologists have more social media following than politicians or actors. " However, he also spoke about the flip side, criticizing hostility against scientists. "We have to counter this tone in society. “

"If it weren't for these women, I wouldn't be standing here today"

Prof. Dr. Yasmine Belkaid found moving words of thanks: "My grandmothers made it possible for me to stand here today - the Algerian one was married off as a child and could not enjoy an education, and the French one was not allowed to go into science either. But as a pharmacist, she taught me what a microflora is. Without these two women, I would not be standing here today. To them and to all the other women in the world, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. " Yasmine Belkaid's research has shown in an authoritative way how the bacteria that colonize our gut and skin train our microflora, our immune system, helping us to fight off infectious agents, but on the other hand, to accept food as harmless.

In his speech, Prof. Dr. Andreas Bäumler also thanked his family: "I wanted to become a scientist, even though neither of my parents come from this field. They always gave me the freedom to decide on my career path myself. " He was honoured for his pioneering work on understanding how the cells of the intestinal epithelium regulate the composition and function of our microflora.

Both acceptance speeches underlined another importance of the Robert Koch Prize: the inspiration and motivation for young scientists.

Life achievement: Hundreds of natural substances made available for medicine

Prof. Dr. Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou received the 2021 Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life's work, but was unable to accept it in person. In a thank-you sent via video message, he also spoke about the long-standing personal relationships with science in Germany. Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou has developed chemical synthesis routes for hundreds of natural substances, making them available for widespread use, especially in medicine. In the process, he often succeeded in gaining the first synthetic access to the target compound, exemplified by the cancer drug paclitaxel and the antibiotic vancomycin.

The musical entertainment was provided by cellist Jakob Daniel Seel. The event was held in compliance with 2G+ rules and hybrid.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, established in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygienic problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention.

Robert Koch (1843 - 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded modern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

28. October 2021

Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou awarded Robert Koch Gold Medal

Awards for post-doctoral researchers Megan Stanifer, Kilian Schober and Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler

Berlin, October 28, 2021 - Prof. Dr. Yasmine Belkaid and Prof. Dr. Andreas Bäumler will be awarded the Robert Koch Prize on 19 November 2021 in Berlin for their groundbreaking research on the importance of microflora for the human immune system and the role of intestinal epithelium in the composition of microflora and related effects in infectious and inflammatory diseases.

The prize, endowed with 120,000 euros, is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in Germany.

Furthermore, Prof. Dr. Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou is awarded the Robert Koch Medal in Gold. Three young scientists Dr. Megan Stanifer, Dr. Kilian Schober and Dr. Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler will each receive a prize endowed with 5,000 euros.

"At a time when science and research are constantly at the centre of public interest and are often the subject of unfiltered discussion on social networks, it is more important than ever to honour the hard work, unwavering diligence and thirst for knowledge of all the men and women who have dedicated their lives to medicine and biology," says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Chairman of the Robert Koch Foundation. "Once again this year, we want to use the award winners to draw attention to the importance of behind-the-scenes work in health care and medical progress, and the impact it has on society as a whole, among the general public and politicians alike.“

Robert Koch Prize

The Robert Koch Prize is shared this year to recognize groundbreaking research that shows how, on the one hand, our microflora train our immune system, and on the other hand, our intestinal epithelium determines the composition of our microflora, and what role disruptions of this dialogue between microflora and us play in infectious and inflammatory diseases.

The Algerian-French immunologist Yasmine Belkaid received her PhD in 1996 from the Institut Pasteur in France on innate responses to Leishmania infections. She then worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the USA on the regulation of the immune response to Leishmania. After a three-year research stay in Cincinnati, she moved back to NIAID in 2005 as a research associate, where she now directs the microbiome program. She is also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The research of Yasmine Belkaid has shown in an authoritative way how the bacteria that colonize our intestines and skin train our microflora, our immune system, and thus help us to fight off infectious agents, but on the other hand to accept food as harmless. In the case of chronic inflammation of the intestine or skin, this dialogue between the microflora and the immune system is disturbed, resulting in a disturbance of the immune balance, which contributes decisively to diseases such as Crohn's disease (chronic inflammation of the intestine) and psoriasis. But also nutrient deficiencies can disturb the dialogue between microflora and immune system, the immune system needs energy in the form of carbohydrates and fat, but also metabolites of the microflora to be able to react well against pathogens and vaccines, and to maintain immunity for years.

Together with Yasmine Belkaid, Andreas Bäumler is awarded the Robert Koch Prize. Andreas Bäumler studied biosciences in Tübingen and did his doctorate on iron uptake and iron-regulated genes in the bacteria Escherichia coli and Yersinia enterocolitica. He subsequently conducted research at Oregon Health Sciences University in the USA, and from 1996 at Texas A&M University. Since 2005, he has been a professor at the University of California at Davis.

Andreas Bäumler is being honoured for his pioneering work on understanding the regulation of the composition and function of our microflora by the cells of the intestinal epithelium. He was able to show that cellular respiration of the intestinal cells and their energy metabolism play an essential role in this. If, for example, the intestinal cells change their metabolism during an inflammation, the composition of the microflora changes, resulting in a so-called dysbiosis, which can have a decisive influence on the course of the disease, e.g. in the case of intestinal inflammations, but also in the case of rheumatism or neuritis. Andreas Bäumler's research provides completely new and original starting points for restoring the balance between microflora and the human body in these diseases.

Robert Koch Gold Medal

Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou receives the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life's work. He was born in Cyprus in 1946 and moved to the UK in 1964. He studied chemistry at the University of London and completed his bachelor's degree at Bedford College in 1969. In 1972 he obtained his PhD and then went first to Columbia University, and then to Harvard University, where he worked extensively on chemical methods for the synthesis of natural products. In 1976, Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou was appointed to a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania. There he developed methods for the synthesis of prostaglandins and macrolides. Particularly impressive were the syntheses of the endiandric acids, based on pericyclic cascade reactions. In 1989, Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou moved to a professorship at the University of California at San Diego, and established a research group at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

He is credited with making the Scripps Research Institute one of the most important centers for synthetic chemistry and chemical biology in the world. Between 2005 and 2011, he also led a laboratory for chemical synthesis of natural products in Singapore at the ICES‐A*STAR Institute. In 2013, he moved to Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he continues to teach and conduct research today. Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou has developed chemical synthesis routes for hundreds of natural products, making them available for widespread use, especially in medicine, often gaining the first synthetic access to the target compound, exemplified by the anticancer drug paclitaxel and the antibiotic vancomycin.

Post-Doctoral Prizes

Megan L. Stanifer, Heidelberg, receives the Postdoctoral Award in Virology 2021 in recognition of her work on the regulation of immune homeostasis at mucosal surfaces. She works in the laboratory of Dr. Steeve Boulant at University Heidelberg. She was awarded the prize for her investigations into the interaction of intestinal epithelial cells with bacteria of the micro‐ flora, as well as bacteria and viruses that are pathogens. She was able to show how intestinal cells specifically only recognise viruses and bacteria that have overcome the mucosa and have penetrated into the interior of the body, and how the intestinal cells are thus able to differentiate harmless microflora from pathogens. The mother of two children is a good role model for the fact that it is possible to combine a successful academic career with a family life.

Kilian Schober, Erlangen, receives the Postdoctoral Award for Immunology 2021 in recognition of his work in the field of translational T cell research. He studied medicine in Würzburg and did his doctorate on the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus. From 2014 to 2021, he worked at the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene at the Technical University of Munich. He is being awarded for his work on the development of T lymphocytes in an immune reaction against cytomegaloviruses, and the establishment of a method to transfer particularly effective antigen receptors to other T lymphocytes. This could be used to produce cells for immunotherapy. Since 2021, Kilian Schober has headed a research group at the Institute of Clinical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler, Kiel, receives the Postdoctoral Award for Hygiene and Microbiology 2021. Katharina Schaufler received her PhD from Freie Universität Berlin in 2016, then worked at Harvard Medical School until 2018. Since 2019 she has been working at the Institute of Pharmacy at the University of Greifswald, since 2020 as head of an independent junior research group and since May 2021 she is at CAU Kiel. Katharina Schaufler is awarded for her work on elucidating the mechanisms and spread of antibiotic resistance, in particular multidrug‐resistant (MDR) Gram‐negative and ‐positive bacteria from the families Enterobacteriaceae and Enterococcaceae. Her work provides the basis for identifying particularly dangerous developments, but also opens up new therapeutic possibilities by addressing the resistance mechanisms. Beyond her scientific work, Katharina Anna Christina Schaufler impresses with her dedication, curiosity and creativity with which she takes up innovations.

About the Robert Koch Foundation


The Robert Koch Foundation e.V. is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of medical progress, founded in 1907 and based in Berlin. It promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases as well as exemplary projects to solve medical and hygienic problems. Every year, the foundation awards several high-ranking scientific prizes: the Robert Koch Prize, which is one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, the Robert Koch Gold Medal, three awards for young scientists and, since 2013, the Prize for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention. Robert Koch (1843 - 1910), after whom the prize is named, founded modern bacteriology. For this he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1905. Koch headed the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 until his retirement in 1904.

Information for editors and the public:

The award ceremony will take place in Berlin, on November 19, 2021 at 4:30 pm at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

The event will be streamed on LinkedIn, the profiles are:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/robert-koch-stiftung/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RKStiftung

All posts surrounding the event will be hashtagged #RobertKochAward.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70285, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

12. Mai 2021

Since 2013, the Foundation grants every two years the Robert Koch Award for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention for scientific work and practical measures in the field of hospital hygiene and infection prevention. The award, which carries a prize of 50,000 euros, is financially endowed by B. Braun Melsungen AG and BARMER. “Given the current situation we are all in, the price is of high relevance and we hope to receive many applications” says Professor Wolfgang Plischke.

Please find more details for nominating here.

17. November 2020

Berlin – Last Saturday the Robert Koch Foundation awarded the 2020 Robert-Koch-Prize, with an endowment of 120,000 euros, to Professor Shimon Sakaguchi, Head of Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC) at University Osaka (Japan).

Professor Thomas F. Meyer, senior professor at Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel (CAU), received the Robert-Koch-Medal in Gold for his lifetime achievement.

Both prizes were handed over by Professor Plischke and Professor Radbruch during a virtual honorary conference. The official festive ceremony at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities is postponed to next year.

This year’s Robert-Koch-Prize honours Sakaguchi’s ground-breaking work on regulatroy T-cells.

Professor Thomas F. Meyer received the Robert-Koch-Medal in Gold in particular for his achievemetns in the field of molecular infection biology.

Post-doctoral awards for young scientist

Also presented at the virtual ceremony were the Post-doctoral Awards for outstanding work by young scientists, which are each endowed with prize money of 5,000 euros. The candidates were nominated by the German Societies for Hygiene and Microbiology, Immunology and Virology.

The Post-doctoral Award for Immunology went to Prof. Dr. Petra Bacher, Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology & Institute of Immunology of Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, in regognition for her work of regulating human immunanswers.

The Post-doctoral Award for Virology went to Prof. Dr. Stephanie Pfaender, Dept. f. Molecular and Medicinal Virology, Ruhr-University of Bochum, in recognition of her work on biology of corona viruses.

Dr. med. Michael Sigal, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, received the Post-doctoral Award for Microbiology in recognition for his work on understanding of gastrointestinal infections.

Photos from the award ceremony may be downloaded for editorial use at:

www.robert-koch-stiftung.de/en/awards/award-ceremonies
Kindly observe the copyright.

About the Robert Koch Foundation

The Robert Koch Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the promotion of medical progress. It was founded in 1907 and is based in Berlin. The Foundation promotes basic scientific research in the field of infectious diseases, as well as exemplary projects that address medical and hygienic issues.

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, since 2013, 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.

Contact:
Sabine Timmermann, Tel: +49 (0)214 30-70 28 5, E-Mail: info@robert-koch-stiftung.de

FURTHER INFORMATION

Press release (PDF)