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News from the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation.

As one of the world’s foremost immunologists, Professor Thomas Boehm has made ground-breaking contributions to the understanding of how the immune system of vertebrates develops, how it works, and has evolved over time. For his many achievements, he will receive the 2021 Heinrich Wieland Prize, endowed with 100,000 euros by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation. His outside-the-box thinking and innovative approaches have enabled surprising, even paradigm-shifting insights, into the function of the immune system, which reach beyond immunology.

For more information, please refer to the full press release, the Heinrich Wieland Prize website, or the website Heinrich Wieland Prize at Berlin Science Week (in German only).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year more than 700,000 people die from infections with microbes that are resistant to all drugs available today. Experts fear that by 2050, this annual death toll could rise to ten million. Consequently, the WHO counts antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among the greatest threats to global health.

The AMR Action Fund is an international initiative supported by the WHO that aims to bring between 2 and 4 new antibiotics to patients by 2030. It combines global efforts to solve the growing threat to our health posed by antimicrobial resistance. The AMR Action Fund is endorsed by industrial enterprises, as well as development banks, and renowned charitable organizations. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation supports the AMR Action Fund with USD 50 million.

Link to the full press release

Link to AMR website

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation awards the 2020 Boehringer Ingelheim Prize to the physician Dr Maximilian Ackermann, MD, and the biologist Dr Christine Zimmermann, they will receive 15,000 Euros apiece.

Ackermann receives the Boehringer Ingelheim Prize for clinical medicine for showing that the development of new blood vessels play an important role in certain lung diseases.

Zimmermann is awarded the Boehringer Ingelheim Prize for theoretical medicine for her discovery that human cells can curb the replication of certain viruses via autophagy, the mechanisms cells use for degrading and digesting cell components. This knowledge is of high clinical relevance as it allows to find better treatment and develop drugs for people most at risk from viral infections.

Link to press release (only available in German).


The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and the Board of Trustees will award the 2020 Heinrich Wieland Prize to Professor Craig M. Crews of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, for pioneering targeted protein degradation as a new principle in pharmacology. His research has opened the way for entirely new treatment options for numerous diseases, including certain types of cancer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the personal presentation of our 2020 award and scientific symposium have been postponed until 2021. Details on the rescheduled event will be published toward the end of the year.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation will hold a virtual event Starting up science: From lab to therapy from 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. CET on 2 November 2020 as part of Berlin Science Week. The Foundation will welcome Professor Craig M. Crews as guest of honour. He will meet with Professor Christian Hackenberger in Berlin and Professor Andrea Tüttenberg in Mainz to discuss how ideas spawned from curiosity-driven research can pave the way for new therapeutic approaches and enable the successful founding of science-based start-ups in the US and Germany. At the end of the event, we will invite the audience to participate in a discussion and share their own experiences.

For more information, please refer to our press release and on the websites Heinrich Wieland Prize 2020 and Berlin Science Week.

Mainz, April 2020: Due to the current size of the non-profit Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and its desire to expand its areas of activity, the foundation's Executive Committee has decided to appoint two new managing directors. Mr. Marc Wittstock will become Managing Director Finance & Administration as of 1 May 2020, while Dr Stephan Formella will follow as Managing Director Science & Research as of 1 July 2020. 

Link to announcement



Professor Jens Brüning, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, Germany, has been honoured with the 2019 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his pioneering work on how the brain regulates the uptake, storage, and use of energy in the body. He has shown that certain brain centres – and, in particular, their interplay with the hormone insulin – are central to the control of body weight. He will receive the Prize, endowed with 100,000 Euros by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation, at a scientific symposium on 7 November in Munich.

Link to the full press release

Link to a picture of AgRP cells: There are several types of cells in the hypothalamus that regulate our energy uptake (yellow: the AgRP cells Jens Brüning studied, magenta: so-called POMC cells, cyan: PNOC-expressing cells). © Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, Cologne

The IMB shows in its annual report 2018 results and new developments, such as the further 106 million Euro funding by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate.

To the IMB annual report

The contractual agreements (current and replaced) regarding the funding of the IMB and further information

Professor Pascale Cossart of the Institut Pasteur in Paris will be honoured with the 2018 Heinrich Wieland Prize for her fundamental contributions to Molecular Infection Biology. Cossart's innovative research has unravelled how pathogenic bacteria, in particular food-borne Listeria, enter human cells, use the host cells' own mechanisms to do so, and trick and evade the immune system. Her discoveries have paved the way toward new therapies for bacterial infections, which kill several million people worldwide each year. The 100,000-euro prize awarded by the non-profit Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation will be presented during a scientific symposium in Munich, Germany, on 22 November 2018.

Link to the full press release

Link to an image of mammalian cell infected by Listeria: Listeria (red) signal infected cells to form comet-like tails from actin (green) that push them through their host cells (blue=cell nuclei). © Pascale Cossart


Two biologists of the University Medical Center Mainz honoured

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has awarded the 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Prize to Dr Frank Bicker and Dr Swenja Kröller-Schön, both biologists, in a festive act. The prize – endowed with a total of 30,000 euros – is shared equally between the two junior scientists from the University Medical Center Mainz.

Dr Swenja Kröller-Schön unravelled the molecular mechanism through which aircraft noise can harm blood vessels and can thus lead to cardiovascular disease. Dr Frank Bicker provided evidence for an essential role of the protein EGFL7 in the production of new nerve cells in the adult brain. His discoveries have direct implications for lifelong learning and may help in developing new therapeutic approaches in regenerative medicine.

To the press release (in German).

The non-profit Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate will fund the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) at the University of Mainz with a further 106 million euros from 2020 to 2027. The Foundation will contribute about 54 million euros and the state 52 million euros. This was announced in Mainz today by Malu Dreyer, minister-president of Rhineland-Palatinate, and Christoph Boehringer, chairman of the executive board of the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation.

Translation of the press release

Link to the new contractual agreement regarding the funding of the IMB (only available in German)

Information on the IMB

Link to the IMB annual report

Link to the 2012-contractual agreement regarding the funding of the IMB (only available in German)

Professor Alexander Varshavsky from the California Institute of Technology, USA, has received the 2017 Heinrich Wieland Prize for discovering the biology of the ubiquitin system. Dr Varshavsky showed that the ubiquitin system is a master regulator that precisely tunes the levels of proteins in cells, thereby controlling a strikingly wide range of their processes, including division, protein synthesis, and stress responses. The 100,000-euro prize awarded by the non-profit Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation was presented during a scientific symposium in Munich, Germany, on 19 October 2017.

Link to the full press release 

Link to an image of the three-dimensional structure of the protein ubiquitin. Caption: In red, areas where the ubiquitin can attach to itself to form chains, blue is the N-end, yellow the C-end of the amino acid chain. Copyright: Paul Riviere, CC_BY-SA 3.0

In 2018, the construction of a unique centre for unifying the latest technologies in optical and electron microscopy will begin at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation will donate 5 million euros primarily toward the training of guest scientists from around the world in the use of the highly complex microscopes, and toward support for their research projects with them.

Particularly when applied in combination, new imaging technologies promise to enable unprecedented insights and findings in life sciences research. Yet, nowhere in the world is there currently a centre dedicated to giving researchers access to the combination of the latest optical and electron microscopy technologies, to training scientists to work with the complex technologies, and to refining these technologies. In fact, even the access to each of the very expensive and complex technologies by itself is currently limited to only a few sites.

In 2018, construction of the Imaging Technology Centre will begin in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), one of the world’s foremost basic research centres. It will be the first centre to provide researchers from all over the globe access to these technologies in combination.

The building and the equipment of the new centre will be financed by the German federal government, the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and industry. The ground-breaking ceremony will take place in the summer of 2018.

To the press release of the EMBL.


Toxicologist Dr Jörg Fahrer found out, how cells of the colon react to certain cancer-causing agents that are produced, for example, while roasting meat and how the cell protects itself against damage to its DNA and damage-induced cell death. His results help to understand better how cancer of the colon develops.

Opthomalogist Dr Katharina Ponto analyzed data from a large health study and thus delivered the first sound and informative numbers about retinal damage in very early-stage diabetes patients. Her data suggest that targeted screening programmes could help to prevent retinal damage due to diabetes.

To the press release (in German).

Dr Andreas Baranowski discovered that prosthesis made of titanium and coated with "bone sialoprotein", an innate protein of the bone, activate bone-specific genes. This could in the future result in a better anchoring of the prosthesis in the bone, and thus a more durable and stable fit.

Dr Georg Gasteiger proved that certain cells of the innate immune system, the so-called ILCs, are local defence cells adapted to their respective tissues. This finding is a significant step in understanding immune system function.

To the press release (in German).

The chemist Peter Schultz has been honoured with the 2016 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his fundamental contributions to the biologically inspired synthesis of new molecules and, in particular, for the expansion of the genetic code. Schultz, professor at The Scripps Research Institute in California, combines nature’s own methods with principles from the chemistry laboratory to create molecules with new functions to use as drugs, study life, or synthesize new materials. His findings have already led to the development of new drugs – some approved, others in the clinical trial stage – against degenerative diseases, cancer, autoimmune, and neglected diseases. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has presented the international 100,000-euro award to him during a scientific symposium on synthetic biology on 13 October 2016 in Munich.

To the press release

Translation of the German-language joint declaration issued by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and the University of Mainz on 16 September 2016 regarding their partnership:

A common goal: Best conditions for world-leading scientists and the freedom for excellent research

Mainz, 16 September 2016: The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is devoted to promoting excellence in basic research in the fields of medicine, biology, chemistry, and pharmacy, and in this endeavour puts special emphasis on nurturing  junior scientists. Since its establishment in 1977, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has concentrated a considerable portion of its funding in the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, due to commitment to its home region.

Translation of the German-language joint declaration

Translation of the German-language press release issued by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation on 27 May 2016 regarding the Mainz administrative court’s grounds for judgement with respect to the contractual arrangements between the University of Mainz and the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation:

Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation welcomes clarifying court ruling

Mainz, 27 May 2016: On Tuesday, 24 May 2016, the administrative court of Mainz published its grounds for judgement concerning Prof. Dr. Thomas Leif versus the University of Mainz. Two weeks earlier, on 11 May 2016, the court had agreed with the position of the University and the Foundation, and denied a general right of access to contracts regarding third-party funding, under the former Landesinformationsfreiheitsgesetz (State Freedom of Information Act, in effect until 31 Dec 2015), as well as under the new Landestransparenzgesetz (State Transparency Act, in effect since 1 Jan 2016).

Translation of the German-language press release