Jan Korbel And Stefan Pfister Receive HMLS Investigator Award

Press Release No. 149/2018
6 December 2018

Prize for Heidelberg Molecular Life Sciences endowed with 100,000 euros

For their ongoing commitment to promote groundbreaking collaborations in Heidelberg and to establish new methods of research in the molecular life sciences, especially cancer research, Dr Jan Korbel and Prof. Dr Stefan Pfister will share this year's HMLS Investigator Award. Bioinformatician and geneticist Jan Korbel is a research group leader and senior scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. Scientist and paediatrician Stefan Pfister pursues research at the German Cancer Research Center and is the Director of the Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ). The Heidelberg Molecular Life Sciences (HMLS) award is endowed with 100,000 euros. The award ceremony will be held on 12 December 2018.

The HMLS initiative is part of the “Molecular and Cellular Basis of Life” Field of Focus anchored in Heidelberg University's institutional strategy. Participants include the Faculty of Biosciences, the Medical Faculties of Heidelberg and Mannheim, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). The award recognises Heidelberg researchers for extraordinary work in the life sciences and their strategic commitment to advancing Heidelberg as a research centre, as well as for initiating structured research activities and mentoring junior researchers.

Stefan Pfister (b. 1974) studied medicine in Hamburg and Tübingen. After completing his doctorate at the University of Tübingen, he worked as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School (USA) and the DKFZ. Starting in 2006 he directed the "Molecular Genetics of Paediatric Brain Tumours" research group there. He habilitated in paediatrics in 2010 at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg. Prof. Pfister has been Head of the Paediatric Oncology Division of the DKFZ since 2012. In 2016 he was appointed Director for Preclinical Paediatric Oncology at KiTZ. He is also senior physician at the Heidelberg University Medical Centre for Children and Adolescents.

Prof. Pfister was chosen for the HMLS Investigator Award in recognition of his exceptional efforts to promote Heidelberg as a leading location for paediatric cancer research and clinical care. "As an extraordinary physician and researcher, Stefan Pfister facilitates pioneering exchange between the HMLS partner institutions. At the same time he serves as a mentor who supports the careers of many young researchers", cites the jury. He is also being recognised for his endeavours in large-scale cooperations like the "Innovative Therapies for Children with Cancer Paediatric Preclinical Proof-of-concept Platform" (ITCC-P4).

Jan Korbel (b. 1975) studied biotechnology at the Technical University of Berlin. After receiving his doctorate at Humboldt University of Berlin – his dissertation in molecular biology was done at EMBL – he went on to Yale University in New Haven (USA) as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2008, Dr Korbel joined the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. The researcher studies the structural variations in the genome in search of a connection to cancerous or inherited diseases, and heads up the "From Genomic Variation to Molecular Mechanism" research group at EMBL. He also works with the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) close to Cambridge (Great Britain), which is part of EMBL.

The jury chose Dr Korbel for the HMLS Investigator Award in honour of his outstanding research in the field of cancer genomics and his pioneering role in deploying cloud computing to analyse human sequencing data. The researcher had a leading role in the 1,000 Genome Project and the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes. "Through his close cooperation not only with his EMBL colleagues but also researchers at the DKFZ and the university, Jan Korbel made a vital contribution to promoting the research city of Heidelberg. He is also a keen supporter of young researchers."

The award ceremony will be opened by Prof. Dr Thomas Rausch, a bioscientist at Heidelberg University and spokesperson for the “Heidelberg Molecular Life Sciences” initiative of the Research Council. Dr Eileen Furlong of EMBL will deliver the address in honour of Dr Korbel, and Prof. Dr Peter Lichter of the DKFZ in honour of Dr Pfister. Both award recipients will provide insights into their respective work. The event, which is open to the public, will be held in Ute Greenier Hall on the 7th storey of the BioQuant Centre, Im Neuenheimer Feld 267, at 5pm on Wednesday, 12 December 2018. Presentations will be made in English.