This year’s ARCHES prize, issued by the Minerva Stiftung, goes to systems biologist Dr. Jan Philipp Junker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and Prof. Erez Levanon of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The award, conferred on June 14, 2016, will support a German-Israeli research alliance that will allow certain changes in gene transcripts to be presented in high spatial resolution for the very first time.
Physicist Jan Philipp Junker knows exactly when which genes are active in which region of the body. Junker is a group leader at the MDC’s Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB), whose work combines state-of-the-art sequencing methods with mathematical modelling and tissue sections taken from the organisms, organs or tissues under investigation. Using this so-called tomo-seq technique, Junker is able to generate high-resolution maps of gene expression in up to three dimensions.
Prof. Erez Levanon is head of a research group at Bar-Ilan University that is investigating how the genetic information contained within a cell is dynamically altered. At present, his main research interest is adenosine-to-inosine editing – a process that involves the modification of one single genetic letter of transcribed genetic information, and is particularly important for the development and functioning of the brain.
The ARCHES award is endowed with a total of €200,000 over a period of five years. It will enable the two scientists to combine their expertise and embark on a joint project. They will begin by spatially resolving the editing processes in zebrafish, for which they will jointly develop new methods. Alongside basic observations of animals that have undergone normal development, experiments will also be carried out on disease models: “Good medical research is always founded on basic research,” says Junker. “Many other projects will be born out of our work.”
ARCHES (Award for Research Cooperation and High Excellence in Science) is awarded every year by the Minerva Stiftung, a subsidiary foundation of the Max Planck Society. The award is conferred to internationally renowned young scientists in Israel and Germany with a view to fostering scientific exchange between the two countries.