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Prof. Dr. Lars Zender

Gastroenterology/Oncology, University Hospital Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Lars Zender

Prof. Dr. Lars Zender

© DFG / David Ausserhofer

Lars Zender is the youngest of this year's Leibniz Prize recipients. The focus of his research is the liver. Zender has decoded fundamental new mechanisms that enable liver function to be maintained or restored. Using oncogenetic screens, he also discovered new genes that inhibit liver tumours. He applied the methodology developed in this process to another, pathophysiological context, namely the regeneration of liver function after acute or chronic liver failure as the normal final alternative to liver transplantation. The gastroenterologist's second main area of research is the role of senescence (cell ageing) in the development of cancer. Zender was able to demonstrate that the “activation” of senescence prevents the formation of tumours from premalignant liver cells and thus represents an important protective mechanism. His work in both fields has generated vital contributions to basic research and new possibilities for the development and improvement of treatment methods.

Born in 1975, Lars Zender began working at Hannover Medical School (MHH) while still a student, being involved in research projects on the regulation of cell death in the liver. After completing his doctorate, receiving his licence to practise medicine and working as an assistant physician at MHH, in 2004 he joined the research team at the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher as part of the DFG's Emmy Noether Programme. After returning to Germany in 2008, he continued his work as a leader of an Emmy Noether and a Helmholtz independent junior research group, turning down several invitations from institutions in Germany and abroad. In 2012 he accepted a post at the University Hospital Tübingen, where he now leads the section for translational gastrointestinal oncology. He has received several awards for his work, most recently the respected German Cancer Award.