28 November 2016 - PRESS RELEASE
Florian Klein receives DZIF Prize for translational infection research
Florian Klein’s main goal is to improve HIV therapy with the help of antibodies and to develop a HIV vaccine. His research on a new generation of broadly neutralising antibodies has found worldwide recognition: the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) now honours Prof Klein, University Hospital Cologne, with the DZIF Prize for translational research. The prize, worth 5,000 euros, was awarded at the DZIF Annual Meeting in Cologne.
At a first glance, HIV and the resulting immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS have lost their threat. Antiviral treatment makes the disease treatable. However, costs for the life-long treatment are high—the drugs can have some severe side effects, are expensive and less than a half of all HIV infected people in the world have access to treatment. In developing countries, AIDS has taken on the dimension of a widespread common disease. New treatment options and a HIV vaccine are urgently needed.
The scientist’s aim continues to be finding a cure and developing a vaccine that protects against HIV. Highly potent, broadly neutralising antibodies could play an important role in both. At the Rockefeller University in New York, Florian Klein conducted basic research on this new generation of antibodies. In 2015, together with his colleagues and in collaboration with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University Hospital Cologne and the DZIF, he was able to confirm the antiviral efficacy and tolerability in a clinical trial for the first time. “The special thing about broadly neutralising antibodies is their ability to neutralise a large number of different HIV viruses,” explains Klein. The mechanism of action is different to that of previous drugs and could hence open up a new field of HIV treatment and prevention. At the DZIF, the scientist consistently further develops his approaches to HIV and other infections.
The DZIF’s major goal is translation: drugs and therapies are to be transferred from basic research to the patient as rapidly and systematically as possible. At the last Annual Meeting which took place from 24 to 26 November, over 300 scientists came together to discuss current research projects. Florian Klein’s work is a particularly good example of a successful translational process in which scientists from basic research and clinicians work together closely.
The award winner
Florian Klein studied medicine in Cologne, Zurich, Bologna und Boston. After working as a physician at the Department I of Internal Medicine of the University Hospital Cologne and completing his PhD in 2009, he moved to the Rockefeller University in New York. Here, he continued his scientific career in Michel Nussenzweig’s research group. Besides working with molecular biology, he also focussed on translational research. After being appointed Instructor of Clinical investigation and Chief Clinical Scholar, he became Assistant Professor in 2013. In 2015, he received a call for a Heisenberg Professorship in Cologne. At the DZIF, Florian Klein works in the research fields HIV, hepatitis and novel antiinfectives. As a clinician scientist he has a special role in implementing the DZIF’s mission of translation.
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