Berlin, November 15, 2013
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.