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Erwin Schrodinger Prize 2008 Goes To The Max Delbrück Center In Berlin - First Map Showing Human Protein Interactions

A Berlin research team led by Professor Erich E. Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has been awarded this year's Erwin Schrodinger Prize for creating a unique "connection scheme" showing for the first time how thousands of human proteins - the building blocks and machines of life - interact with each other. The prize, endowed with 50 000 euros, will be awarded by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, of which the MDC is a member, at its General Assembly on September 11, 2008. Along with Professor Wanker*, the prizewinners are Dr. Ulrich Stelzl (now at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin), Christian Hänig, Dipl.-Ing. (MDC), Gautam Chaurasia, M.Sc. (Humboldt University Berlin and MDC), and Dr. Matthias Futschik (Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin). Interactions between proteins are of great interest for understanding disease mechanisms and for developing new drugs. Moreover, with their help, researchers can detect disease-relevant genes.

The researchers performed more than 25 million single experiments to see whether specific proteins work with each other. This way they succeeded in creating a map showing 3 200 protein interactions between 1 700 proteins. Furthermore, they were able to identify 195 proteins and their cooperation partners that have been linked to different diseases and to assign 342 not previously characterized proteins to already known signaling pathways.

The extensive studies on human protein interactions only became possible with a special technique which Professor Wanker, Dr. Stelzl and Christian Hänig developed six years ago. In this method, yeast cells are employed to identify the binding partners of the proteins.

"We have laid the foundation for a comprehensive connection scheme of the human body. The map helps us understand the functions of proteins and the complex processes in our cells," explained Professor Wanker, who directed the study. The researchers published their results in 2005 in the journal Cell (Vol. 122, No. 6, September 23, 2005, pp. 957-968). The scientists supplemented the robotics study with a large-scale database project on protein interactions.

The prize is named after the Austrian physicist and Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger (1887 Vienna - 1961 Vienna). The annual prize is conferred alternately by the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany and by the Helmholtz Association. The prize honors outstanding scientific research or innovative technological achievements.

Short Biographies:

Professor Erich E. Wanker (1965 in Klagenfurt, Austria), 1983 - 1992 degree in Biotechnology and PhD at the TU Graz (Austria); 1993 - 1995 postdoc at UCLA, Los Angeles, USA; 1995 - 2001 research group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin; since 2001 research group leader at MDC and C4 professor at the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.

Dr. Ulrich Stelzl (1971 in Vienna, Austria), 1990 - 1996 degreen in Biochemistry at the TU Vienna; 1994 - 1995 studies and diploma thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland; 1996 - 2000 PhD student and postdoc at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany; 2000 - 2002 research fellow at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA; 2002 - 2007 postdoc at MDC; since 2007 research group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.

Christian Hänig, Dipl.-Ing. (1967 in Halle/Saale, Germany), 1989 - 1995 degree in Mechanical Engineering at the TU Dresden, Germany; 1992 - 1993 work in the development division of the Strömungsmaschinenwerk GmbH, Dresden; 1995 - 1998 post-graduate study of building services engineering, TU Dresden; until 2001 work for various engineering firms in Dresden and supplementary qualification in IT Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Germany; 2002-2004 programmer and IT manager at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin; since 2004 engineer and programmer at MDC.

Gautam Chaurasia, M.Sc. (1977 in Kanpur, India) 1995 - 1998 Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Biology, Kanpur University, India; 2000 - 2003 B.Sc. in Bioinformatics, Free University (FU) Berlin, Germany; 2003 - 2005 Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Bioinformatics at the University of the Saarland, Saarbrücken, Germany; since 2006 PhD student at Humboldt University Berlin and at MDC.

Dr. Matthias Futschik (1970 in Waiblingen, Germany), 1992 - 1997 degree in Physics and Philosophy at the University of Tübingen, Germany; Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, USA and Humboldt University Berlin, Germany; 1998 diploma in Physics, Humboldt University Berlin; 1999 - 2002 PhD in Information Sciences at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand; 2002 - 2003 senior bioinformatician at Pacific Edge Biotechnology, Dunedin, New Zealand; 2003 - 2004 research fellow at the Institute of Theoretical Biology of the Charité, Germany; since 2004 assistant professor there; from September 2008 research group leader at the University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal.

Erwin Schrodinger Prize 2008 Goes To The Max Delbrück Center In Berlin - First Map Showing Human Protein Interactions

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