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Nobel laureate Harald zur Hausen has passed away

No. 31 | 29/05/2023 | by Koh

The German Cancer Research Center mourns the death of Harald zur Hausen. The Nobel Laureate in Medicine and longtime Chairman of the DKFZ Board of Directors died last Monday, May 29, at the age of 87. "The news of Harald zur Hausen's death saddens all of us at DKFZ. Our thoughts are with his family. With him, we lose an outstanding scientist who made groundbreaking achievements in the field of tumor virology," said Michael Baumann, Chairman of the Board and Scientific Director of DKFZ.

Harald zur Hausen
© Uwe Anspach / DKFZ

Harald zur Hausen's research laid the foundations for the development of a vaccine against cancer-causing human papillomaviruses. Millions of people around the world now benefit from this scientific achievement. "Without exaggeration, it can be said that Harald zur Hausen thus opened up a whole new dimension of cancer prevention" Baumann paid tribute to the deceased.

As Chairman of the Board and Scientific Director, zur Hausen led the German Cancer Research Center for twenty years from 1983 until his retirement in 2003. "Under his leadership, the DKFZ has risen to become one of the leading international research institutions. Harald zur Hausen thus played a decisive role in Heidelberg being mentioned today in the same breath as the world's best sites in cancer research," says Ursula Weyrich, Administrative Director of the DKFZ.

In the course of his research life, zur Hausen was honored with an impressive number of academic awards. He was the recipient of nearly 40 honorary doctorates and numerous honorary professorships. The pinnacle of his scientific career came in 2008 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. In 2009, zur Hausen received the Grand Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2017, the city of Heidelberg named him an honorary citizen.

Harald zur Hausen was a passionate scientist who researched the infectious causes of malignant tumors at the DKFZ until the end. The German Cancer Research Center will honor his memory with deep gratitude.

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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