Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Honours Outstanding Young Scientists
22 January 2016
The Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation is honouring two outstanding young Heidelberg-based scientists : Dr. Edward Lemke and Dr. Hai-Kun Liu. The award, named after its donors, endows each recipient with 100,000 euros in research funding. With the 2015 prize, the foundation pays tribute to Dr. Lemke’s and Dr. Liu’s excellent work in biomedical research. Edward Lemke conducts research in structural biology at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), where he is developing new biological tools for manipulating biomolecules. At the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Hai-Kun Liu is investigating stem cells of the central nervous system and their role in the development of brain tumours. The award ceremony will be held on 27 January 2016.
Edward Lemke (b. 1978) studied physical chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Oklahoma in Norman (USA). He completed his PhD in biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Dr. Lemke did postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, focusing on single-molecule fluorescence techniques and chemical biology. He has been a research group leader at EMBL since 2009, leading an Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group since 2010. In 2015 he received an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council. Dr. Lemke works in close collaboration with researchers at Heidelberg University.
Using methods of high-resolution fluorescence microscopy, Dr. Edward Lemke’s research group is investigating proteins that are not completely folded, i.e. “intrinsically unstructured”. The researchers aim to discover how such proteins can form a barrier that protects the cell nucleus. They are also exploring how HI and hepatitis B viruses circumvent this protection in order to introduce their own genetic material. To pursue its work, Lemke’s team is developing innovative precision tools from chemical biology that can make the mechanisms directly visible at the molecular level in nano resolution without interfering with the function of the living cells.
Hai-Kun Liu (b. 1978) studied biology at the Shandong Normal University in China and earned his doctorate at the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Liu worked as a postdoc at the DKFZ from 2005 to 2010. Starting in 2011, he headed up the Helmholtz Young Investigator Group, from which the Molecular Neurogenetics Department developed in 2015. Hai-Kun Liu’s department is associated with the DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, the strategic cooperation between the German Cancer Research Center and the Centre for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH). His laboratory is also part of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences. The European Research Council has been funding Dr. Liu since 2015 with an ERC Consolidator Grant.
The researcher is investigating how stem cells develop in the adult brain and may contribute to the development of disease. Dr. Liu’s work on the relationship between brain stem cells and brain tumour stem cells has yielded important results. He identified the Tlx protein as the key molecule in brain tumour stem cells. When the Tlx molecule was genetically switched off in mice, the tumour stem cells were unable to regenerate and the diseased animals survived longer. Tlx therefore holds much promise for new treatment strategies for glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumour. Dr. Liu and his associates also succeeded in tracking the genetic lineage of brain tumour stem cells in the living organism.
The foundation established by researchers Prof. Dr. Chica Schaller and Prof. Dr. Heinz Schaller, has been supporting biomedical research in Heidelberg since 2000. It provided funding for an endowed professorship and has granted scholarships. The Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation is particularly committed to setting up and financing the Schaller research groups that work at Heidelberg University and the German Cancer Research Center. The award named for its two benefactors is one of the foundation’s major funding instruments and has been presented annually since 2005 to outstanding young researchers in Heidelberg. The Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Award is endowed with funding in the amount of 100,000 euros.
At the award ceremony on January 27, Dr. Lemke and Dr. Liu will give brief presentations about their work, in English. EMBL General Director Prof. Dr. Iain Mattaj will deliver the address honouring Dr. Lemke. Prof. Dr. Hannah Monyer, who directs the Department of Clinical Neurobiology at the DKFZ and Heidelberg University Hospital, will extol the work of Hai-Kun Liu. Prof. Dr. Heinrich Betz from the board of the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation will serve as moderator. The event will be held in the Ute Greenier Hall on the 7th storey of the BioQuant Centre, Im Neuenheimer Feld 267, and begins at 4pm. The public is invited to attend.