Gülşah Gabriel and Stefan Niemann impressed the judges with their scientific work: The German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is awarding them both a translational infection research prize worth EUR 5,000.
Influenza viruses causing the flu are the focus of the research work which is carried out by Professor Gülşah Gabriel, a virologist at the Heinrich Pette Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology and Professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation. Her research covers the entire spectrum, from the fundamental mechanisms of the disease up to investigations using animal models and the risk of infection and disease in humans. How does the virus develop in different animals, which changes does it undergo before it crosses over to humans and how do dangerous pandemics occur? “With her extraordinary translational approach, which also includes a large clinical cohort of influenza patients, Gülşah Gabriel provides an important basis for new antiviral strategies,” explains the Chairman of the Board at the DZIF, Professor Hans-Georg Kräusslich, in his laudatory speech. Thanks to her research on key molecules in the pathogenesis of influenza, Gabriel is also providing an important foundation for the development of new active ingredients against viruses which people fear, for example the Zika or Ebola viruses.
The tuberculosis pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is also feared and is on the rise again, is the subject of the research work carried out by Professor Stefan Niemann. At the Research Center Borstel, the molecular microbiologist has developed a specialism in tuberculosis and other diseases of the lungs. Since his PhD, Niemann has continued to develop the modern genome analysis procedures in order to gain a better understanding of the spread of the disease and optimise both diagnosis and treatment. “Stefan Niemann’s work is of particular importance, especially in view of the dramatic global spread of multi-resistant strains,” explains Kräusslich in his speech. The prize-winner, who coordinates the “Tuberculosis” research group at the DZIF, has been able to put his research into practice. As such, in Borstel, the analysis results of the tuberculosis strains have been implemented in targeted and individual treatment for over a year now.
Both prize-winners have therefore carried out excellent translational infection research work and are working towards the DZIF’s primary goal: the effective transfer of research results into clinical application and vice versa, i.e. the use of findings from clinical application. The patient is always the focal point of the research work carried out at the DZIF. The prizes were awarded during the joint annual conference of the DZIF and the German Society for Infectious Diseases on 21 November in Bad Nauheim.
A brief overview of the prize-winners
Gülşah Gabriel (born in 1978) studied Biology in Marburg, where she received her Diploma in Molecular Biology in 2003 and completed her doctorate in Virology in 2006. After a two-year research period at the University of Oxford, Gabriel took over an Emmy Noether research talent group at the DFG in 2009 and, from then on, concentrated on influenza research. In the same year, she received a Young Scientist Award for her influenza research. Since 2014, Gabriel has been Research Director at the Heinrich Pette Institute and a Professor at the University of Lübeck. Since 2018, she has been Head of the Viral Zoonosis Department at HPI, One Health. She was also appointed to a Professorship for Viral Zoonosis at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover at the same time in 2018.
Stefan Niemann (born in 1964) studied Biology at the University of Bielefeld, where he completed his doctorate in the Genetics department in 1996. As a postdoc, he worked and carried out his research at the Research Centre Borstel in the National Reference Centre for Mycobacteria, of which he is now the Deputy Director. In 2004, he completed his post-doctoral lecturing qualification at the University of Lübeck in Microbiology and Molecular Biology. Since 2014, Stefan Niemann has been a Professor for Molecular and Experimental Mycobacteriology at the University of Lübeck. He also directs a research group in this field at the FZB and has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Namibia, Windhoek since 2017. In 2011, he received the Eva and Klaus Grohe Prize from the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities for his work, as well as the Main Award from the Germany Society of Hygiene and Microbiology in 2016 and the Schleswig-Holstein Excellence Chair in 2017. He coordinates the research area “Tuberculosis” at the DZIF.