Prof. Dr. Gunther Hartmann & Prof. Dr. Christian Kurts
Clinical Pharmacology/Innate Immunity, University Hospital Bonn (Hartmann) and Immunology/Nephrology, University Hospital Bonn (Kurts)
Gunther Hartmann and Christian Kurts will share the Leibniz Prize in recognition of their seminal discoveries concerning the mode of action of the body’s endogenous defence systems. They do their excellent work at the same location, the University Hospital in Bonn, but at different departments and independently of each other.
Clinical pharmacologist Hartmann has critically improved the understanding of nucleic acid detection by the immune system, especially with his research into the effect of CpG oligonucleotides on the highly important dendritic cells, and into short-interfering RNAs. These investigations are important for understanding the defence against viruses and the development of a rapid immune response against invading pathogens. Hartmann’s findings can also be used for the development of new vaccines and pharmacologically active substances for the inhibition of genes. The foundation for Gunther Hartmann’s work, which has already been recognised with several national and international awards, was laid with a DFG-funded postdoctoral fellowship in Iowa, United States. From there Hartmann moved on to Munich and then to Bonn, where he has led the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pharmacology since 2007.
Christian Kurts is also particularly interested in elucidating the function of dendritic cells. The research topics of this immunologist and specialist in internal medicine, however, are extremely broad and interdisciplinary. They range from the cross-presentation of antigens, to the interaction of various immune-system cells to build an immune response and the pathogenesis of inflammation, to the development of intestinal paralysis after abdominal surgery and of special forms of nephritis. A key motivation behind Kurth’s research is always the indirect application of findings in a therapy setting. Several of his works have refuted what used to be universally accepted assumptions in immunology. Christian Kurts was a Heisenberg fellow of the DFG, which also funded his two-year research stay in Australia. In Bonn since 2003, Kurt is now director of the Institute of Experimental Immunology. Outstanding both as a researcher and a clinician, he also exerts a great attraction as an academic teacher on clinically oriented young scientists.