Through the agency of the C.H.S. Foundation established by them recently, Prof. Dr. Heinz Schaller of the Molecular Biology Centre of the University of Heidelberg (ZMBH) and his wife Prof. Dr. Chica Schaller of the Molecular Neurobiology Centre in Hamburg (ZMNH) have donated the financial resources for the establishment of a new chair of molecular virology at the University of Heidelberg. For this purpose they have placed a total of 1,250,000 at the disposal of the University. After a period of ten years the funding of the chair will be taken over by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The first holder of the chair, as of 1 February 2002, is the virologist Ralf Bartenschlager. Alongside this chair, the C.H.S. Foundation also encourages young scientists in the field of biomedicine, notably via grants for budding scientists from Eastern Europe.
Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff assured the donors of the "profound gratitude of the University of Heidelberg". With funding from public sources becoming scarcer all the time, he said, generous private commitment of this kind is doubly important in ensuring the establishment of new research ventures and thus sustaining the University's potential for unremitting self-renewal. Hommelhoff described the endowment as an example for other university professors to emulate, saying that there is "no more emphatic token of a professor's ties with his alma mater than a generous endowment of this kind."
Chica Schaller studied biology in Tübingen and was later research group leader in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the Max Planck Institute of Medical Research and the University's Molecular Biology Centre (ZMBH). Her main research interests revolve around the development of the nervous system. She has been director of the Institute of Developmental Neurobiology at Hamburg's Molecular Neurobiology Centre (ZMNH) since 1991.
After studying chemistry in Heidelberg Heinz Schaller continued his research in Madison, USA and the Max Planck Institute of Virology in Tübingen, concentrating on fundamental aspects of molecular biology of central importance for the development of a new research field: genetic engineering. In 1973 he was appointed to the chair of microbiology in Heidelberg. Together with other scientists he established Heidelberg's Molecular Biology Centre (ZMBH) as an interdisciplinary research centre and acted as its administrative director in the early stages. In 1978 Heinz Schaller was one of the founders of BIOGEN, one of the world's most successful biotech companies. His main research efforts are dedicated to a better understanding of the molecular biology of infectious diseases, notably hepatitis B. He played a central role in the development of a vaccine for inoculation against the hepatitis B virus. Emeritus professor since 2000, Heinz Schaller is now able to devote his energies more exclusively to his research at ZMBH.
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Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317