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4 October 2004

Minister-President Erwin Teufel Congratulates University of Heidelberg on its "Magnificent Success" in the BioFuture Competition 2004

"The University is producing excellent results in the entire life-science sector and is up among the international leaders. The BioFuture prize is an eloquent testimony to its achievements" (Teufel)

The minister-president of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Erwin Teufel, recently sent his congratulations to Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff on the "magnificent success" of the University of Heidelberg in the BioFuture competition organised by the Federal Ministry of Higher Education and Research. Four of the total of eight recipients of the award will be conducting their projects in Heidelberg. With prize monies averaging 1.5 million euros, these distinctions are among the most generously endowed awards for young researchers in Germany.

"All four winners had earlier connections with Heidelberg and have decided to return there. This is a token of their appreciation of the outstanding scientific environment Heidelberg provides," Teufel said, adding that at the same time it was a handsome recognition of the research being done in the life sciences at Heidelberg University. "The University is producing excellent results in the entire life-science sector and is up among the international leaders. The BioFuture prize is an eloquent testimony to its achievements." (Teufel)

The minister-president went on to note that as a "cross-section" technology the life sciences can be expected to have a similar impact on our lives to the changes brought about by information and communications technology. "This is what makes it so important for Baden-Württemberg to be in at the cutting edge of research and to have a major hand in further developments. Only then will we succeed in asserting ourselves against global competition in the long term. Accordingly, Drs. Watzel, Bekeredjian, Meissner and Frischknecht have made an important contribution to enhancing the status of Baden-Württemberg as a research location."

The prize monies will enable the scientists to establish or expand their own research groups. Dr. Carsten Watzl, for instance, has been heading a young scientists' research group at the Institute of Immunology since 2002 investigating natural killer cells in the immune system. He studies the way in which the activity of these cells is regulated at the molecular level, i.e. how the cell knows they are supposed to be active or inactive. One of the objectives is to activate natural killer cells to combat cancer cells.

Dr. Friedrich Frischknecht will be heading a research group at the Department of Parasitology of the Institute of Hygiene as of 1 July 2005. At present the young researcher is working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. His main interest is in the mechanisms of the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to the human body. In addition, he intends to draw on ultra-modern microscopy techniques to gain more detailed insights on the internal structure of the parasites, with a view to developing new approaches to the fight against malaria.

Dr. Markus Meissner will be starting work with his research group at the same department as of 1 January 2005. His concern is with parasites that can cause malaria, toxoplasmosis (a protozoal disease in animals that can be transmitted to humans) and other diseases. The object of his research is to identify parasite genes that are instrumental in enabling pathogens to penetrate and destroy host cells.

In the next few months Dr. Raffi Bekeredjian will be constituting his research group at the Department of Cardiology, Angiology and Pulmology at the University Hospital for Internal Medicine. His research interest centres on experimental ultrasonic applications. Bekeredjian has found a way of packing certain active substances into little bubbles (microspheres). The bubbles transport these substances to a given organ and by means of high-energy ultrasonics can be made to burst there and release the curative substances. This paves the way for organ-specific therapy, genetic or medication-based.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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