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Leibniz Prizes 2016 for Three Female Researchers

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Marina Rodnina and Bénédicte Savoy receive most important German research award

2.2.2016 | The Leibniz Prizes 2016 were awarded to ten scientists who will receive 2.5 million Euros each for further research. Of the ten new prizewinners, three are from the life sciences, three from the natural sciences, three from the humanities and social sciences, and one from the engineering sciences.
Prof. Marina Rodnina
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Prof. Marina Rodnina
Emmanuelle Charpentier's name is closely associated with a revolutionary method of genome modification. She is being recognised with the Leibniz Prize for the discovery and development of this method. Charpentier has studied regulatory processes in bacterial infectious diseases extensively. In this context she also worked with CRISPR-Cas, a bacterial defence system against phages. Charpentier – in partnership with Jennifer Doudna in Berkeley – has succeeded in simplifying this originally very complex system. This in turn was the starting point for the development of CRISPR-Cas9 as a cutting tool, which allows genome modification at any point with great efficiency. Compared to previous methods, these RNA-based DNA 'scissors' are revolutionary. The method is considered to be one of the greatest advances in the life sciences in recent decades, and is already used all over the world.

Emmanuelle Charpentier studied microbiology, genetics and biochemistry in Paris and obtained her doctorate at the Pasteur Institute. After research in the USA, Austria and Sweden, she came to Germany in 2013, where she received a Humboldt Professorship working at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig and Hannover Medical School. In October 2015, she was appointed director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. She has already won several major international awards for her research into CRISPR-Cas9.

Prof. Bénédicte Savoy
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Prof. Bénédicte Savoy
Marina Rodnina is awarded the Leibniz Prize in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the understanding of the function of ribosomes. These complex molecular machines synthesise proteins from amino acids. Rodnina is primarily interested in the question of how the process of translation can take place with maximum precision and without errors – which is exceedingly important because a single 'wrong' component can result in a defective protein and damage the entire cell. By using a combination of kinetic and fluorescence-based methods, Rodnina has obtained new insights into the structure and function of ribosomes. In other projects she has identified a series of proteins and clarified their function, for example the auxiliary protein EF-P, thus opening new possibilities for defence against bacteria. These and other findings have long appeared in textbooks and enjoy international recognition.

Born in Kiev, where she also studied biology and obtained her doctorate in molecular biology and genetics, Marina Rodnina moved to the University of Witten-Herdecke in 1990 with a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. After completing her habilitation there, she was appointed Professor of Physical Biochemistry. Since 2008 she has been director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.

Bénédicte Savoy has been selected for the 2016 Leibniz Prize as one of the most highly regarded and innovative art historians in two countries. In her academic work as well as in large exhibition projects, the French-born researcher forges links between German and French art history, and regards it as a vitally important field of German-French relations. Already with her dissertation on the French art theft in Germany during the Napoleonic occupation, she pioneered this connection. She also describes the exhibition of Nefertiti in Berlin as a 'German-French affair', and the emergence of public museums in Germany as an undertaking of political and historical significance – culminating in 'nation building', which she studies from the perspective of museum and collection culture. Savoy also is a very successful organiser of German-French exhibitions: in Bonn, she planned a much-noticed exhibition on Napoleon Bonaparte, and in Paris, an equally fascinating exhibition on the Humboldt brothers.

Like her academic work, Savoy's academic training was binational. She studied history of art, history and German literature in Paris and Berlin and obtained her doctorate under Jacques Le Rider. In 2003 she was appointed junior professor at the Technical University of Berlin, where she took up her current post as the Chair of History of Modern Art in 2009. Bénédicte Savoy has already received several awards for both her research work and her inspiring academic teaching.

The official Leibniz Prize 2016 ceremony will be held on March 1, 2016 in Berlin.
  (© German Research Foundation DFG, AcademiaNet)
Marco Finetti

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