Press releases – March 2016

 

Mar 16 2016
08:10

The 37 years old researcher is awarded for insights into the function of non-coding RNAs

Claus-Dieter Kuhn receives Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers 2016

The Young Researcher Prizewinner is studying the role of RNAs in regulating cellular processes and investigating how this knowledge can be used for treating cancer and regenerating organs.

FRANKFURT am MAIN. Today, Dr. Claus-Dieter Kuhn from Bayreuth University will be awarded the €60,000 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers for 2016. Kuhn, a biochemist and structural biologist, is being honored for his research into the leading role of RNAs in the cell. RNAs were long thought to only be the "executive" of the gene copying machinery. Yet they are the ones that really "pull the strings" in the cell. Some RNAs function as molecular switches, pushing development in one direction or another. Others flag messenger RNAs (mRNAs) for elimination, thereby controlling how many mRNAs are transcribed into proteins. Yet others dispose of themselves if they do not meet the cell's quality specifications. Kuhn has worked on various aspects of these processes, showing how RNAs, together with certain proteins, master these tasks and he has elucidated the properties that they exhibit for the purpose. The Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation acknowledges that Kuhn's work has advanced RNA research and has improved the prospects of harnessing RNAs for therapeutic purposes. The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers will be presented by Professor Harald zur Hausen in the Paulskirche, Frankfurt.

Kuhn's work ties in with the observation that every cell contains hundreds of thousands of RNAs that are not translated into proteins and yet are not simply waste. For a long time scientists could see no rhyme or reason in this. Nor could they understand why many living creatures – for instance chimpanzees and humans – have a virtually identical genetic makeup and yet show significant differences in their appearance and skills. We now know that non-coding RNAs play an important role in the differentiation process. Kuhn has analyzed this issue at various levels. Among his early achievements are molecular snapshots of the enzyme RNA polymerase I. This enzyme produces the ribosomal RNAs that are part of the ribosomes, the protein factories. From these snapshots it was possible to derive a model of the enzyme. Kuhn later showed how transfer RNAs, which supply amino acids for protein biosynthesis, brand themselves if they are defective. They employ a special signature to achieve this. Kuhn has also been instrumental in elucidating the structure of a protein termed Argonaute 2. This protein modulates protein biosynthesis by working together with short RNAs to cleave complementary mRNAs. Kuhn is now working on RNAs that turn genes on and off. These findings could well advance our medical state of the art.

Short biography of Dr. Claus-Dieter Kuhn

Claus-Dieter Kuhn, age 37, was born in Mutlangen (close to Stuttgart, Germany), began studying biochemistry in Regensburg and completed his Master's degree in chemistry at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. For his PhD work Kuhn moved to the Gene Center of the University of Munich (LMU) in Germany. From Munich he went to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA. He interrupted his stay there in 2009 to spend a year working for Proteros Biostructures GmbH, a company based in Munich. In 2010 Kuhn returned to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Since fall 2014 he is at Bayreuth University where he heads a Junior Research Group at the Research Center for Bio-Macromolecules. His work is supported by the Elite Network of Bavaria. Claus-Dieter Kuhn has won numerous prizes, among them a gifted student scholarship of the Wilhelm Narr Foundation and a Kekulé Fellowship from the German Chemical Industry Fund (FCI). He was a fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research based at Yale University. Moreover, he participated in two graduate programs and was awarded the Römer Prize of the University of Munich.

 

Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers, awarded for the first time in 2006, is conferred once a year by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation on a young investigator working in Germany for his or her outstanding achievements in the field of biomedical research. The prize money must be used for research purposes. University faculty members and leading scientists at German research institutions are eligible for nomination. The selection of the prizewinner is made by the Scientific Council on a proposal by the eight-person selection committee.

The Paul Ehrlich Foundation

The Paul Ehrlich Foundation is a legally dependent foundation which is managed in a fiduciary capacity by the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, Frankfurt. The Honorary Chairman of the Foundation, which was established by Hedwig Ehrlich in 1929, is the German Federal President, who also appoints the elected members of the Scientific Council and the Board of Trustees. The Chairman of the Scientific Council is Professor Harald zur Hausen, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees is Professor Dr. Jochen Maas, Head of Research and Development and Member of the Management Board, Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH. Professor Wilhelm Bender, in his function as Chair of the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, is Member of the Scientific Council. The President of the Goethe University is at the same time a member of the Board of Trustees.

 

Further information

You can obtain selected publications, the list of publications and a photograph of the prizewinner from the Press Office of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation, c/o Dr. Hildegard Kaulen, phone: +49 (0) 6122/52718, email: h.k@kaulen.wi.shuttle.de and at www.paul-ehrlich-stiftung.de.

 

Mar 16 2016
08:08

Prizewinners have radically simplified genome editing and engineering

Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2016 for Charpentier and Doudna

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have developed the bacterial gene cutter CRISPR-Cas9 in such a way that specific DNA sequences can be targeted and cleaved. The technology is opening up completely new perspectives for research.

FRANKFURT am MAIN. Emmanuelle Charpentier from France and Jennifer A. Doudna from the USA are today being awarded the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for 2016 in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt. The two scientists are being honored for their pioneering work in the development of the programmable gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. "With this precision tool genes can be modified easily and precisely," wrote the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation in explaining its decision. "The prizewinners recognized and identified this potential and demonstrated the technology's far-reaching applications." In the shortest time, CRISPR-Cas9 has become one of the most sought-after tools in molecular biology research, the Scientific Council continues. CRISPR-Cas9 is so easy to use that genome editing, which only a few years ago was extremely complicated, has become a routine procedure. The Council also paid tribute to the fact that Doudna and Charpentier were among the first to call for debate on the ethical issues because CRISPR-Cas9 can also be used to edit and engineer the germline. Charpentier is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology in Berlin and Professor at Umeå University in Sweden. Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is among the most prestigious international awards granted in the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of medicine. The Prize will be presented by Professor Harald zur Hausen, Chairman of the Scientific Council.

Charpentier and Doudna were the first to demonstrate that CRISPR-Cas9, developed by bacteria as a defense against bacteriophages, can be used to target and cleave any DNA sequence.  The gene cutter is programmed and controlled by a guide RNA. One of the prizewinners' achievements is that they have made the gene cutter easier and more user-friendly. Experiments in numerous laboratories have quickly shown that this simplified form works not only in the test tube but also in living cells and in many organisms. The DNA is edited and engineered in repairing double strand breaks.  This makes it possible to replace or alter genes or knock them out of action. There is strong evidence that CRISPR-Cas9 will help cure hereditary diseases, eradicate dangerous pathogens, and breed better plants.

The two prizewinners' pioneering publication in 2012 - following the breakthrough finding by Charpentier in 2011 of the CRISPR-Cas9 system - unleashed a veritable wave of CRISPR-Cas9 research. Since then, thousands of publications have appeared that reveal its true potential and describe further details and potential developments of the CRISPR technology. "This technology is changing both fundamental research and clinical and commercial opportunities in biology," says Doudna. "That's very exciting." Charpentier says: "I think that CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to really change the biotechnology and the medical landscapes."

At the ethics summit held in Washington in December 2015, both scientists spoke out against editing of the human germline for clinical applications at this time. In the concluding statement, which Doudna as one of the organizers also signed, germline editing is deemed to be "irresponsible" unless and until the relevant ethical and safety issues have been resolved. The document also declares that norms concerning acceptable uses should be established by the international community.  The summit did not call for a moratorium but rather for intensification of research within the legal and ethical boundaries.

 

Short biography of Professor Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier

Emmanuelle Charpentier (age 47) was born in Juvisy-sur-Orge, France, in 1968. She studied microbiology, genetics and biochemistry in Paris and completed her doctorate at the Institut Pasteur. After working in New York and Memphis, notably at the Rockefeller University, Charpentier moved to the University of Vienna in 2002 and to Umeå University in 2009, where she is still Visiting Professor. Charpentier came to Germany in 2013 on a Humboldt Professorship. She first headed a Department at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig and was full Professor at the Hannover Medical School. She was appointed Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin in October 2015. Charpentier has been awarded well over two dozen different prizes, including the three million dollar Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation and an honorary doctorate of the University of Louvain. She is a member of various science academies and associations, including Germany's Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and elected foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. She co-founded CRISPR Therapeutics in 2014 and ERS Genomics in 2013.

 

Short biography of Professor Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna

Jennifer A. Doudna (age 52) was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Hilo, Hawaii. She studied chemistry at Pomona College in California and took her doctorate in biological chemistry and molecular chemistry at the Harvard University in 1989.  After her doctorate, Doudna moved to the University of Colorado. In 1994 she was appointed professor at Yale, and she has been a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, since 2002. At Berkeley she serves as Chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Biology. Doudna is also the Executive Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative at UC Berkeley/UCSF. The co-prizewinner has been an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1997. She has won numerous awards, including the three million dollar Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Doudna is a member of various science academies and associations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a co-founder of Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences.

 

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is traditionally awarded on Paul Ehrlich's birthday, March 14, in the Paulskirche, Frankfurt. It honors scientists who have made significant contributions in Paul Ehrlich's field of research, in particular immunology, cancer research, microbiology, and chemotherapy. The Prize, which has been awarded since 1952, is financed by the German Federal Ministry of Health, the German association of research-based pharmaceutical company vfa e.V. and specially earmarked donations from companies. The prizewinner is selected by the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation.

 

The Paul Ehrlich Foundation

The Paul Ehrlich Foundation is a legally dependent foundation which is managed in a fiduciary capacity by the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, Frankfurt. The Honorary Chairman of the Foundation, which was established by Hedwig Ehrlich in 1929, is the German Federal President, who also appoints the elected members of the Scientific Council and the Board of Trustees. The Chairman of the Scientific Council is Professor Harald zur Hausen, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees is Professor Dr. Jochen Maas, Head of Research and Development and Member of the Management Board, Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH. Professor Wilhelm Bender, in his function as Chair of the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, is Member of the Scientific Council. The President of the Goethe University is at the same time a member of the Board of Trustees.

 

Further information

You can obtain selected publications, the list of publications and a photograph of the laureates from the Press Office of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation, c/o Dr. Hildegard Kaulen, phone: +49 (0)6122/52718, email: h.k@kaulen.wi.shuttle.de and at www.paul-ehrlich-stiftung.de

 

Mar 9 2016
12:29

Researchers in Frankfurt and Kent identify first step in design of new anti-cancer drugs

New Hope for Cancer Patients

New research co-led by the University of Kent has identified a first step in the design of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs that include an agent to inhibit resistance to their effectiveness. 

The research by a team led by Professor Martin Michaelis of Kent’s School of Biosciences, in conjunction with Professor Jindrich Cinatl of theGoethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, could pave the way for tailored combinations of drugs that would provide more effective treatment for patients suffering from therapy-resistant cancers.

Drug resistance is the major reason for the failure of anti-cancer therapies and patient deaths. Despite major improvements in cancer treatment in recent decades, cures are still mostly achieved by early cancer detection and local therapy using surgery and radiotherapy. Once cancer cells have spread throughout the body and formed metastases (secondary tumours), the prognosis remains grim with 5-year survival rates being below 20%.

Effective systemic drug therapies are needed therefore to improve the outcomes of patients diagnosed with metastatic disease. However, many cancers are characterised by intrinsic resistance, where there is no therapy response from the time of diagnosis, or acquired resistance, where there is an initial therapy response but cancer cells eventually become resistant.

Arguably, the most important resistance mechanism in cancer cells is the action of so-called ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, drug pumps that act as a mechanism to move anti-cancer drugs from cancer cells. Of these, ABCB1 (also called multi-drug resistance gene 1 (MDR1) or P-glycoprotein) is the most relevant one. Previous attempts to target ABCB1 as part of anti-cancer therapies have failed.

A major reason for this is that ABCB1 is expressed at many sites in the body, particularly at tissue barriers such as the gastro-intestinal barrier and the blood brain barrier. This has meant in the past that agents that inhibited ABCB1 were not specific to the interaction of the desired anti-cancer drug with the ABCB1 on cancer cells but affected the body distribution of many different drugs and food constituents, resulting in toxic side-effects.

The new research demonstrates that certain inhibitors of ABCB1 specifically interfere with the ABCB1-mediated transport of certain anti-cancer drugs. This provides a first step towards the design of tailored combinations of anti-cancer drugs and ABCB1 inhibitors that specifically cause the accumulation of anti-cancer drugs in ABCB1-expressing cancer cells but do not affect the body distribution of other drugs or food constituents.

In addition to Professor Michaelis and Professor Cinatl and their laboratory members, the team included Dr Mark Wass (University of Kent), Professor Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz (Goethe-University Frankfurt), Dr Taravat Ghafourian (University of Sussex), and Professor Michael Wiese (University of Bonn) and members of their research groups.

 

The research, entitled Substrate-specific effects of pirinixic acid derivatives on ABCB1-mediated drug transport, was published in Oncotarget. See here:

http://www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path[]=7345&author-preview=5o1

 

Informationen:

Prof. Dr. Jindrich Cinatl, Institut für Medizinische Virologie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt; cinatl@em.uni-frankfurt.de; +49 69 6301 6409; Dr. Florian Rothweiler; f.rothweiler@kinderkrebsstiftung-frankfurt.de; +49 69 6786 6572.

 

 

 

 

Mar 7 2016
14:32

Lecture in English Language on May 19th 2016

Exile and Creativity: Ludwig Meidner in London

Ludwig Meidner (1884-1966), a leading exponent of German literary and artistic Expressionism, fled from Nazi Germany to London in August 1939, a month prior to the outbreak of war. Six months after his arrival in Britain, he was interned as an “enemy-alien” in Huyton Camp, Liverpool, and thereafter on the Isle of Man. During 1942, shortly after his release from internment, he began working on a cycle of watercolours and drawings »Leiden der Juden in Polen« (Suffering of the Jews in Poland) and, although the series remains largely unpublished and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the quantity, date and sequence of the works, it is clear from their scale and depth of reference that this was intended as a monumental undertaking. Here he re-engaged with political subject matter in responding to reports on the contemporary destruction of Central European Jewry. The lecture at Goethe University's Museum Giersch will explore how, why and through what means Meidner was challenged to respond to the extremely grave news and will deal comparatively with other refugee artists in exile, internment and responses to Holocaust knowledge.

The Exhibition

Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966) ranks as one of the outstanding German artists of the modern era. His life and oeuvre exemplify the social fractures which many artists in Germany were confronted with in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition at Goethe University's Museum Giersch focuses on works created by this Jewish artist throughout his years in exile. To escape Nazi persecution, Meidner emigrated to London in 1939 and lived in England until his return to Germany in 1953. Under extremely difficult circumstances and conditions, Meidner executed an impressive range of works on paper while in exile – sketchbooks, watercolours, charcoal and pencil drawings – works that until now have been overshadowed by his brilliant expressionist oeuvre. The more than 120 works presented in the exhibition will, for the first time, enable this creative period in he artist’s life to receive the wide appreciation it deserves.

The works Meidner created during his exile years represent a highly intense mix of his inner experience and commentary on those times. As such, they are especially relevant today. With great vision, unsparing directness and symbolic condensation, the artist depicts isolation, persecution and annihilation. And it is with empathy, humour and biting satire that he tells us of an absurdly grotesque and abysmal world.

MUSEUM GIERSCH
der GOETHE-UNIVERSITÄTSchaumainkai 83 (Museumsufer)
60596 Frankfurt am Main

more information (in German)

 

Mar 4 2016
09:07

What form can professional help take? Field reports from current projects and discussion on interdisciplinary approaches

Frankfurt conference on "Migration and trauma – effects on the next generation"

FRANKFURTThey have experienced terrible things: Bombing raids, death and abuse, an often perilous escape and a not always friendly reception in Germany. Many refugees are traumatised, especially the children. They need professional help. How to approach this is the topic of a conference taking place on 4-6 March at the Bockenheim Campus of Goethe University. The conference is open to teachers and volunteers as well as scientists. 

The topic of this international conference is "Migration and trauma – effects on the next generation". The conference is being organised by the Sigmund Freud Institute, Goethe University, the interdisciplinary research centre "Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk“ (IDeA) and the University of Stockholm. "Psychoanalysis today and current empirical attachment research have extensive knowledge of both conceptual as well as preventative and therapeutic approaches to dealing with traumatised people", according to the organiser of the conference, Prof. Dr. Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber, Managing Director of the Sigmund Freud Institute. This knowledge formed the theoretical foundation for five prevention projects, which have been offered since 2010 to over one thousand difficult to reach families with migration backgrounds in precarious social situations. These projects focused on early prevention for so-called "at-risk children". 

Many studies show how important it is to provide basic help to traumatised people as quickly as possible, in order to mitigate the long term consequences for them and the following generations. "Traumatisation is the result of experiences which expose people to extreme feelings of despair, powerlessness and helplessness, usually combined with a fear of death. Basic trust is also lost. Those affected can no longer rely on anything; not on one another and not on themselves", Leuzinger-Bohleber explains. "This is why traumatised people are particularly vulnerable to migration experiences and to renewed experiences of passivity and powerlessness in the reception centres." Recent studies show that traumatisation also has a lasting influence on stress regulation, which is explained in several presentations at the conference. This affects early parenthood in particular and hence shapes the next generation as well. 

Mitigating the danger of traumatisation through educational, socio-pedagogical and therapeutic support is a pressing humanitarian task for many professions at this time. The work of the different professions is highly interdisciplinary, as reflected by the research performed in this field in Frankfurt. "Our research centre "Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk", or IDeA, which in addition to Goethe University also includes the German Institute for International Educational Research and the Sigmund Freud Institute, offers outstanding opportunities in this regard", emphasises Prof. Dr. Sabine Andresen, Professor of Educational Studies at Goethe University.

Discussions at the conference – in German and English – will centre around how the knowledge, which has been and is currently being gained through projects in locations such as Frankfurt, Oslo and Belgrade, can be applied in order to help traumatised children in different educational establishments, from nursery to secondary school. Initial experiences gathered at the refugee clinic at the Sigmund-Freud Institute and the "Michaelis-Dorf" pilot project in a reception centre in Darmstadt will also be presented. This project was started at the end of January and is currently the only one of its kind in Germany. It is managed jointly by the psychoanalyst and professor for Clinical Psychology  Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber and the professor for Educational Sciences Sabine Andresen. In Darmstadt, students, young scientists and volunteers are working side-by-side to support child refugees. Andresen explains: "It is especially important for children and young people to experience the reception centre as a child-friendly place from the start. They want to feel that they are safe there and can contribute their skills. This sort of place has to be created through educational and leisure programmes, opportunities for participation and open-minded adults."

The conference will take place on Friday (March 4th) at 8:15 pm (Campus Bockenheim, Hörsaalgebäude, Hörsaal VI) complemented by a public lecture by Prof. Dr. Vera King, who in March will take the place of Prof. Dr. Rolf Haubl as Acting Director of the Sigmund Freud Institute as well as taking over as Professor of Social Psychology at Goethe University. She will speak about "Transgenerational transmission in the context of adolescence and migration".

This conference continues the tradition of the Joseph Sandler Research Conferences, which have been held in Frankfurt on the first weekend in March for the past eight years. Sandler and his wife opened psychoanalysis up to increased dialogue with the other sciences during the 1990s, and organised this annual conference with that purpose in mind.

 

Information: Prof. Dr. Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber, Sigmund Freud Institute, Phone (069) 971204-149; leuzinger-bohleber@sigmund-freud-institut.de, stebahne@sigmund-freud-institut.de; Program at: www.sigmund-freud-institut.de; Registration for the conference: tagung@sfi.eu, Phone (069) 971204-129

 

Goethe University is a research-oriented university in the European financial centre Frankfurt In 2014, it celebrates its 100th birthday. Founded in 1914 with purely private funds by liberally-oriented Frankfurt citizens, it is dedicated to research and education under the motto "Science for Society" to this day as a citizens’ university. Many of the early benefactors were Jewish. Over the past 100 years, Goethe University has carried out pioneering work in the social and sociological sciences, economics, chemistry, quantum physics, brain research and labour law. It gained a unique level of autonomy on 1 January 2008 by returning to its historic roots as a "foundation university". Today, it is among the top ten in external funding and among the top three largest universities in Germany, with three clusters of excellence in medicine, life sciences and the humanities. More information at www2.uni-frankfurt.de/gu100

 

Publisher The President of Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. Editor Ulrike Jaspers, Consultant for Scientific Communication, Department of Marketing and Communication, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Phone: (069) 798-13066, Fax (069) 798-763 12531, jaspers@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de