Skip to main content

Heinrich Wieland Prize.

With its Heinrich Wieland Prize, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation honours distinguished scientists from around the world for their outstanding research on biologically active molecules and systems in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and physiology as well as their clinical importance. Endowed with 100,000 euros, the prize is named after chemist and Nobel laureate Heinrich Otto Wieland (1877–1957) and has been awarded since 1964. It is among the world’s most important research prizes endowed by a German foundation. Four of its laureates have subsequently also received a Nobel Prize. The Heinrich Wieland Prize award ceremony is held in conjunction with a scientific symposium. Each year, the foundation publishes a public call for nominations. Deadline for nominations is:

June 1 of the year prior to the award.

From left: Prof. W. Baumeister (then Chairman of the Board of Trustees), 2016 laureate Prof. P. G. Schultz, Chr. Boehringer (Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation) Photo: A. Griesch

Board of Trustees of the Heinrich Wieland Prize.

The Foundation entrusts the selection of laureates to a Board of Trustees which is composed of internationally renowned scientists, all working in an honorary capacity. The current Board of Trustees:

  • Prof. Dr Eric M. Carreira, PhD – ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Prof. Dr F.-Ulrich Hartl – Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
  • Prof. Dame Carol Robinson – PhD, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Dr Walter Rosenthal – University of Jena, Germany
  • Prof. Dr Gerd Schnorrenberg – Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Ko KG, Biberach, Germany
  • Prof. Dr Petra Schwille – Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
  • Prof. Dr Rudolf Tauber – Charité – University Medical Center Berlin, Germany
  • Prof. Dr Dirk Trauner – New York University, USA
  • Prof. Dr Felix Wieland (Chairman) – University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • Prof. Dr Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer – University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Laureates 2011–2017

Professor Alexander Varshavsky, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, USA, receives the 2017 Heinrich Wieland Prize for discovering the biology of the ubiquitin system, a set of pathways mediating, among other things, protein degradation.

Varshavsky revolutionized our view of cellular physiology by showing that regulating protein degradation is as important as regulating protein expression. He identified key mechanisms of the ubiquitin system and the first degradation signals (degrons) in short-lived proteins. He was the first to reveal the biological functions of ubiquitin conjugation, e.g., in the cell cycle, DNA repair, cellular stress responses, protein synthesis, and transcriptional regulation. Varshavsky’s fundamental discoveries gave rise to major biomedical fields and led to new therapies. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation will present him with the 100.000 euro award on 19 October 2017 in the course of a scientific symposium.

The chemist Peter Schultz will be 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 presented him with the international 100,000-euro award during a scientific symposium on synthetic biology on 13 October 2016 in Munich.

To the press release

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Gero Miesenböck was the first to install a light-controlled on-off switch in brain cells. The pioneering method allows researchers to selectively switch nerve cells on and off. In this way researchers learn in a step-by-step process what behaviour the studied brain circuits control and what goes awry in disease. For his method, hailed as a “breakthrough of the decade”, Professor Miesenböck of the University of Oxford received the 2015 Heinrich Wieland Prize.

Press release

Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany

Reinhard Jahn received the 2014 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his ground-breaking studies on membrane fusion and neurotransmitter release – processes that occur when cells grow, transport substances, or send signals. He developed a still-valid model for membrane fusion, whereby so-called SNARE proteins sitting on the surfaces of two membranes interlock with each other in the manner of a zipper and thus pull the membranes closer and closer together until they fuse. 

Press release

Cambridge University and the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Breakthroughs stemming from Professor Kouzarides’ research in the field of epigenetics have given hope for new anti-leukemic drugs. Epigenetics is the study of the cellular mechanisms that regulate gene expression or activity. Tony Kouzarides was awarded the 2013 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his pioneering and dogma changing discoveries in the field of epigenetics and their impact on cancer research.

Press release

University of California, Berkeley, USA

The 2012 Heinrich Wieland Prize honoured Carolyn Bertozzi’s pioneering research of the biological functions of sugar, and in particular her method of modifying cellular sugar chains (glycans) in the context of cancer, inflammations and infections. With her methodological breakthrough known as bioorthogonal chemistry, Bertozzi has opened the door to exploring the largely unchartered territory of sugar biology, thus paving the way for new diagnoses and therapies.

Press release

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany

Franz-Ulrich Hartl received the 2011 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his formulation of a new concept to explain how proteins adopt a defined, three-dimensional structure. Contrary to the previously held view that all proteins fold spontaneously and autonomously, Hartl demonstrated that protein folding is a complex process requiring the assistance of other proteins, known as chaperones.

Press release

English Webseite of the Heinrich Wieland Prize

For further information (call for nomination, former laureates, history, etc.) about the Heinrich Wieland Prize, please visit www.heinrich-wieland-prize.de.