November 6, 2015
Berlin – The Robert Koch Foundation today jointly awarded this year’s 100,000 Euro Robert Koch Award to Professors Ralf Bartenschlager, University of Heidelberg, and Charles M. Rice, The Rockefeller University, New York. Professor Peter Piot of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was awarded the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his life’s work. The awards were presented by Lutz Stroppe, State Secretary of the Federal Minister of Health, on November 6, 2015 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
The two molecular biologists are being honored for their groundbreaking work on hepatitis C virus (HCV), laying the foundation for drug discovery efforts to combat this prevalent human liver disease. Piot was honored for his commitment and his lifetime achievements, in particular for his work on the Ebola virus.
In his speech, State Secretary Lutz Stroppe highlighted the work of the award winners who have made a decisive contribution to improving the health and quality of life of countless people. “The fight against the Ebola epidemic has impressively demonstrated the importance of global cooperation. Science laid the foundation for understanding the mode of action of the virus. This enabled prevention and treatment methods to be developed and ultimately allowed for strategies for assistance on-site to be set. This is why we need scientists like today’s prize winners who, with their curiosity and their enthusiasm, advance research for the benefit of mankind. “
The Robert Koch laureate Professor Ralf Bartenschlager is Executive Director of the Department of Molecular Virology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. At the same time, Bartenschlager is head of the infection and cancer program at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The second laureate, Dr. Charles M. Rice, is Scientific and Executive Director of the interdisciplinary “Center for the Study of Hepatitis C” at The Rockefeller University, New York, USA. Both laureates are credited with helping to understand the HCV lifecycle, identifying promising antiviral targets, and establishing reproducible cell culture systems for basic studies that could also be used for drug screening and testing.
Gold Medal for worldwide Prevention of Infectious Diseases
The fight against infectious diseases characterizes the life’s work of Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK. In 1976, Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire. Furthermore, his numerous international activities led among others to understanding about the heterosexual spread of HIV and to the investigation and implementation of preventive strategies against AIDS in African countries. Piot has also been engaged in negotiating substantial price reductions for antiretroviral drugs, which has resulted in the establishment of HIV prevention programs in developing countries.
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.
The post-doctoral award for virology went to Dr. Meike Dittmann, The Rockefeller University, USA, for her research on the role of interferon-stimulated genes in viral pathogenesis. Dr. Nishith Gupta, Humboldt University Berlin, received the microbiology award in recognition of his studies in the field of the metabolism of pathogenic parasites. Dr. Christoph Klose, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, received the immunology award for his research into the biology of Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs).