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Boehringer Ingelheim Prize.

With the Boehringer Ingelheim Prize, we aim to support particularly promising and advanced members of the next generation of scientists at the University Medical Center Mainz. The Prize honours excellent scientific achievements in clinical as well as theoretical medicine, and is endowed with a total of 30,000 euros in prize money and gives the opportunity to attend a one-day, tailor-made communication seminar.

Today’s Boehringer Ingelheim Prize is founded on a tradition spanning nearly 50 years. First awarded in 1969, it has been endowed by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation since 1995. The prizewinners are selected each year by the University Medical Center Mainz. Eligible to apply is who conducts research in clinical or theoretical medicine at the University Medical Center Mainz, for example, as senior post-doctoral fellow, junior group leador, or junior professor.

As part of the award ceremony held at the University Medical Center Mainz, the prizewinners present their research to the public.

From left: Prof. U. Förstermann, PD Dr J. Fahrer, Chr. Boehringer, PD Dr K. Ponto, Dr T. Voigt, Prof. H. Schild. Photo: J. Arlt

2017 Boehringer Ingelheim Prize: Studies on cancer of the colon and diabetes-related retinal damage

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.

Ophtomalogist 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.

Recent prize-winners 2011–2016

From left: Dr E. Frank, O. Boehringer, Prof. B. Simon, Dr T. Voigt, Dr A. Baranowski, Dr G. Gasteiger, Prof. U. Förstermann, Dr C. Walther, Prof. M. Beutel. Photo: T. Böhm

Dr Andreas Baranowski discovered that prostheses 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.

From left: Prof. U. Förstermann, Chr. Boehringer, Dr S. Karbach, Dr T. Voigt, Dr A. Ulges, O. Boehringer, Prof. B. Simon, Prof. M. Beutel. Photo: P. Pulkowski.


Cardiologist Dr Susanne Karbach found a possible explanation for the observation that patients with psoriasis present higher rates of cardiovascular diseases. Immunologist Dr Alexander Ulges discovered a new group of regulatory T cells, which modulates immune defence in the lungs. In doing so, he also deciphered the corresponding mechanism at the molecular level.

From left: Prof. A. Barner, O. Boehringer, Dr U. Distler, Dr J. Weinmann-Menke, Prof. U. Förstermann, Prof. B. Simon, Prof. K. Dugi. Photo: B. Hof-Barocke.


Biotechnologist Dr Ute Distler optimized a method for the qualitative and quantitative analysis of proteins, which aids in understanding important biological processes. Physician Dr Julia Weinmann-Menke identified a new biomarker that, in the case of systemic lupus erythematosus (an autoimmune disease), enables the prognosis of lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. 

From left: P. Geipel, Dr C. Walther, Dr N. Yogev, Prof. U. Förstermann, Dr I. Reiner, O. Boehringer. Photo: U. Feuerbach.

 Psychologist Dr Iris Reiner examined how early relationship experiences and the neuropeptide oxytocin (often referred to as the love hormone) interact in depressive patients. Reiner’s approach could help in understanding major depressive disorders and their development. The jury of experts selected molecular biologist Dr Nir Yogev for his research on multiple sclerosis (MS). Yogev demonstrated for the first time that in MS the so-called dendritic cells not only trigger the disease’s development, as was previously thought, but also play a protective role. His findings open promising avenues for the treatment of MS.

From left: P. Geipel, Dr C. Walther, O. Boehringer, Dr K. Kautz-Neu, Dr N. Prinz, Prof. R. Urban, Prof. K. Dugi, Prof. J. Michaelis. Photo: Th. Böhm.

Immunologist Dr Nadine Prinz researched antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), among the most common autoimmune diseases that can cause thrombosis and miscarriage. She discovered a previously unknown signalling pathway, and showed for the first time how the immune system of APS patients alarms itself erroneously. The research findings of biologist Dr Kordula Kautz-Neu could serve as a basis for developing a vaccine against leishmaniosis, which, according to the WHO, is one of the world's major infectious diseases with 12 million people infected in 2012.

From left: Prof. K. Lackner, O. Boehringer, Dr S. Horke, Prof. K. Dugi, Dr B. Baier, Prof. J. Michaelis, Dr C. Walther, P. Geipel. Photo: Th. Böhm.

Pharmacologist Dr Sven Horke discovered that certain tumour cells require the human enzyme PON2 to survive. Cancers such as leukaemia could potentially be fought by switching off PON2. The jury of experts selected neurologist Dr Bernhard Baier for proving that, in the case of stroke patients, for example, damage in a particular cerebellar region can lead to attention-related disorders. The therapy and rehabilitation of patients with such brain damage could be altered by Baiers’s findings.