Leibniz Prize for Heidelberg Researcher Prof. Dr Joachim P. Spatz
8 December 2016
Photo: Wolfram Scheible
Prof. Dr Joachim Spatz, Heidelberg University researcher and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, has been awarded the 2017 Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation (DFG) for his outstanding research at the intersection of the material sciences and cell biophysics. The DFG made the announcement on Thursday, 8 December 2016. The award is Germany's most prestigious research prize. It is endowed with 2.5 million euros earmarked for future research activities. Joachim P. Spatz directs the Biophysical Chemistry Working Group at Heidelberg University’s Institute for Physical Chemistry and heads the New Materials and Biosystems Department at the MPI.
Prof. Spatz is investigating cell adhesion, or the bonding and binding of cells to one another and their adhesion to surfaces. The German Research Foundation cited the awardee’s "exemplary experimental approach" that succeeded in yielding precise insights into the control of cell adhesion down to the physiological processes. By using artificial, molecularly structured interfaces, the researcher was able to reduce possible interactions to a minimum of molecular components. "The scientific achievement of Joachim Spatz lies in his application of original material science and physical concepts to study the communication mechanisms between cells in an innovative way. Using these methods, he also succeeded in uncovering how the molecular mechanism of collective cell migration functions in wound closing," according to the DFG.
Joachim Spatz studied physics at the University of Ulm and Colorado State University in the USA. He earned his doctorate in the field of macromolecular chemistry in Ulm, where he completed his habilitation in cell mechanics. Prof. Spatz was appointed Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at Heidelberg University in 2000 and has been a Director of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, formerly the MPI for Metal Research, since 2004. He is a member of the CellNetworks Cluster of Excellence at Ruperto Carola. The researcher has been a visiting professor of molecular cell biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot (Israel) since 2008. He has been honoured with numerous awards for his scientific achievements, including an ERC Advanced Grant, a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC).
The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been given by the DFG annually since 1986. The German Research Foundation named three women and seven men as the 2017 prize recipients. The awards ceremony will be held in Berlin on March 15th of next year.