Two Humboldt award winners are coming to the MDC as visiting scientists

Prof. David H. Gutmann, the US neurologist, and Prof. Maike Sander, a diabetes researcher at the University of California, San Diego, USA, have now been granted the Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The award is linked to research fellowships in Germany. The host will be the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). At the MDC, Prof. Gutmann will collaborate with neurologist Prof. Helmut Kettenmann, and Prof. Sander with heart specialist Prof. Norbert Hübner.

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David Gutmann and Maike Sander received the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Research Prize. Image: David Gutmann/Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Maike Sander/UCSD

Prof. David H. Gutmann carries out research into the cellular and molecular causes of inherited cancer syndromes of the nervous system at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, USA. Prof. Gutmann is an internationally recognised expert on neurofibromatosis, a form of nerve tumour that occurs primarily in children. The neurologist is working on new prognostic and therapeutic methods that are hoped to benefit sufferers. For example, one of his discoveries was the essential role of the tumour’s micro-environment in the development of gliomas; he used these findings in the development of new treatments for neurofibromatosis tumours.

“Prof. Gutmann’s excellent work embodies how to successfully translate the findings from the neurosciences into personalised medicine,” says Prof. Kettenmann, who proposed the neurologist for the research award and who has already collaborated with Gutmann in the context of an Einstein BIH Visiting Fellowship. Over the coming years, David H. Gutmann and Helmut Kettenmann will continue their research work into the micro-environment of tumours and cooperate with various other MDC working groups and the Charité.

The focal point of Prof. Maike Sander’s research is the pancreas. The diabetes- and stem cell specialist has produced trailblazing works on the transcription mechanisms underlying the development and functioning of this organ. Since 2012, Prof. Sander has been the Director of the Paediatric Diabetes Research Center (PDRC) at the University of California San Diego, one of the leading diabetes research centres in the USA.

Prof. Sander’s research is currently addressing the question as to how genetic variation contributes to the way in which diabetes develops as a condition. At the MDC, Prof. Sander will collaborate with Prof. Norbert Hübner’s working group; Prof. Hübner is performing research into the genetic causes of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Maike Sander and Norbert Hübner want to find out how the use of animal models and models based on human pluripotent stem cells can be deployed to discover the genetic causes of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The plans are for a long-term cooperation to develop out of this collaboration, which will involve Prof. Sander contributing to the academic training.

The Humbolt Research Award, granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is endowed with € 60,000. The Foundation grants the award to researchers in recognition of their entire achievements to date, i.e. those whose work has “had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”


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