Press and Public Relations

Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Honours DKFZ-Scientist

No. 03c | 22/01/2016 | by Koh

On January 27th, the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation will honour two outstanding young scientists based in Heidelberg. Edward Lemke and Hai-Kun Liu will each receive a prize money of 100,000 € for their research. With the 2015 prizes, the Foundation recognises Lemke’s and Liu’s excellent work in the field of biomedicine. 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. Edward Lemke conducts research in structural biology at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) where he is developing new biological tools for manipulating biomolecules.

Hai-Kun Liu
© dkfz.de

Hai-Kun Liu is investigating how stem cells develop in the adult brain, with the goal of understanding how tumours develop. His 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. Liu and his associates also succeeded in tracking the genetic lineage of brain tumour stem cells in the living organism.

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. He has led the Helmholtz Young Investigator Group since 2011 and the research division of Molecular Neurogenetics since 2015. His department is associated with the DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, strategically linking the two institutions. His laboratory is also part of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences. The European Research Council has been funding Kai-Kun Liu since 2015 with an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Using methods of high-resolution fluorescence microscopy, 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.

Edward Lemke (b. 1978) studied physical chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. He completed his dissertation in biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Lemke did postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, focusing on single-molecule fluorescence techniques and chemical biology. In 2009, he headed the Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group at EMBL. In 2015, he received an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council. Lemke works in close collaboration with researchers at Heidelberg University.

The Foundation was established in the year 2000 by two renowned molecular biologists, Chica Schaller and Heinz Schaller after whom the awards are named. The Foundation’s fundamental purpose is the support of biomedical research in Heidelberg. The funding it offers is flexible and free from bureaucratic constraints frequently encountered in academia. In addition to this Research Award of 100,000 €, presented annually since 2005, the Foundation has funded an endowed professorship as well as a number of long- and short-term fellowships for scientists transitioning to independent status. It is currently financing five Schaller Research Groups working at Heidelberg University and DKFZ.

At the awards ceremony, Edward Lemke and Hai-Kun Liu will briefly present their work in English. EMBL General Director Iain Mattaj will laud Lemke while Hannah Monyer, who directs the Department of Clinical Neurobiology at the DKFZ and Heidelberg University Hospital, will similarly honour Hai-Hun Liu. Heinrich Betz, a member of the Foundation’s board, will serve as moderator and Rohini Kuner, the first Research Awardee and also a board member, will present the certificates and prizes. The event will be held on January 27, 2016, at 4:00 PM in the Ute Greenier Hall (7th floor) of the BioQuant Centre, Im Neuenheimer Feld 267. The public is invited to attend.

Internet information:
Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation – www.chs-stiftung.de
Edward Lemke – www.embl.de/research/units/scb/lemke/index.html
Hai-Kun Liu – www.dkfz.de/de/normale-und-neoplastische-stammzellen/index.php

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.

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