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Robert Koch Award 2015 goes to Ralf Bartenschlager and Charles Rice

No. 16c | 21/04/2015

The Laureates lay the foundation for dramatic advances in the treatment of hepatitis C. Peter Piot receives Robert Koch Gold Medal for his co-discovery of the Ebola virus and the fight against HIV infection in Africa.

Prof. Ralf Bartenschlager

The Robert Koch Foundation is jointly awarding this year’s 100,000 Euro Robert Koch Award to Professors Ralf Bartenschlager, Heidelberg, Germany and Charles M. Rice, New York, USA. The two molecular biologists are being honored for their groundbreaking work on hepatitis C virus (HCV), laying the foundation for drug discovery efforts to combat this prevalent human liver disease.

Professor Peter Piot, London, UK, receives the Robert Koch Gold Medal for his lifetime achievements, in particular for his joint discovery of the Ebola virus and the establishment of preventative strategies to combat the spreading of HIV infection in Africa.

The award ceremony will take place on November 6, 2015 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

The Robert Koch laureate Professor Ralf Bartenschlager is Executive Director of the Department of Molecular Virology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. At the same time, Bartenschlager is head of the infection and cancer program at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The second laureate, Dr. Charles M. Rice, is Scientific and Executive Director of the interdisciplinary "Center for the Study of Hepatitis C" at The Rockefeller University, New York, USA. Both laureates are credited with helping to understand the HCV lifecycle, identifying promising antiviral targets, and establishing reproducible cell culture systems for basic studies that could also be used for drug screening and testing.

In chronic cases, HCV infection can result in liver cirrhosis and cancer. With new treatment options catalyzed by these basic discoveries, it is now possible to eliminate the virus permanently in the vast majority of patients treated. Worldwide, approximately 170 million people are infected with HCV, including an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 people in Germany.

Gold Medal for worldwide Prevention of Infectious Diseases

The fight against infectious diseases characterizes the life's work of Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK. In 1976, Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire. Furthermore, his numerous international activities led among others to understanding about the heterosexual spread of HIV and to the investigation and implementation of preventive strategies against AIDS in African countries. Piot has also been engaged in negotiating substantial price reductions for antiretroviral drugs, which has resulted in the establishment of HIV prevention programs in developing countries.

Photos of the laureates may be downloaded for editorial use at

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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