Professor Dr. Joachim P. Spatz (47), Biophysics, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, will be recognised with the Leibniz Prize for his outstanding research at the boundaries of materials sciences and cell biophysics. His research is concerned with cell adhesion, that is, the adhesion and bonding of cells to one another and to surfaces. His exemplary experimental approach has garnered precise insights into the control of cell adhesion and indeed physiological processes. To achieve this, Spatz used artificial, molecularly structured boundary surfaces to reduce possible interactions to a minimum of molecular components. Joachim Spatz’ scientific achievement lies in the fact that he can study the communication mechanisms between cells in a new way with the help of concepts from materials science and physics. Using these resources, he was able to explain how the molecular mechanism of collective cell migration works in wound healing.
Joachim Spatz studied physics in Ulm and at Colorado State University. He obtained his doctorate in macromolecular chemistry in Ulm, and it was also there that he completed his habilitation with a topic on cell mechanics. Since 2000 he has been a professor of biophysical chemistry in Heidelberg. In 2004 he was appointed director of the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, now the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, in Stuttgart. Since 2008 he has also held a visiting professorship in molecular cell biology at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. Starting January 2017, Joachim Spatz is appointed director at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. In addition, he will continue to head a department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart.
The Leibniz Prize
The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded by the DFG annually since 1986. Each year a maximum of ten prizes can be awarded, each with prize money of €2.5 million. With the ten prizes for 2017, a total of 348 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded to date. Of these, 115 were bestowed on researchers in the natural sciences, 101 in the life sciences, 79 in the humanities and social sciences, and 53 in the engineering sciences. The number of award recipients is higher than the number of awarded prizes because, in exceptional cases, the prizes and money can be shared. Accordingly, a total of 374 nominees have received the prize, including 326 men and 48 women.
The Leibniz Prize is the most significant research prize in Germany. Seven past prizewinners have subsequently received the Nobel Prize: 1988 Professor Dr. Hartmut Michel (Chemistry), 1991 Professor Dr. Erwin Neher and Professor Dr. Bert Sakmann (Medicine), 1995 Professor Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Medicine), 2005 Professor Dr. Theodor W. Hänsch (Physics), 2007 Professor Dr. Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry) and most recently in 2014 Professor Dr. Stefan W. Hell (Chemistry).
The Leibniz Prize will be awarded on 15 March 2017 at 3.00 pm at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin.