The Charité can hope to attract a Nobel Prize winner. The German-American brain researcher Thomas Südhof has been selected as the recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2023. It is associated with funding of up to five million euros, which he can use for his research at Berlin University Medicine.
The prize is awarded when the top international researchers actually work at German universities. Südhof, who currently works at the elite Stanford University in California, was nominated for the award by the Charité, as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation announced on Wednesday.
Born in Göttingen, he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2013 together with the US researchers James Rothman and Rand Schekman. The three scientists, largely independently of one another, discovered essential transport mechanisms in cells whose defects are the basis of diabetes, tetanus, neurological diseases and many other diseases.
Südhof researches how nerve cells communicate with each other. Among other things, he deals with the molecular basis of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or autism. Since 2014 he has been a guest researcher at the Berlin Institute for Health Research in the Charité. Now the prospects are good that he will come to Berlin permanently – pending negotiations about the details of his appointment.
In addition to the neuroscientist, nine other top international researchers from various German universities and research institutions were nominated for the Humboldt Professorship: the two computer scientists Samarjit Chakraborty and Ingmar Weber; the expert in theoretical computer science André Platzer; the mathematician Thomas Strohmer; the quantum optician Dirk Englund; bioinformatician Hanna Kokko; developmental psychologist Tina Malti; cryogenic chemistry expert Edvardas Narevicius; and the expert for automation technology Heike Vallery.
In 2019, the neuroscientist Thomas Südhof pleaded for more individual funding for Berlin researchers. “In Berlin, no university is currently reaching the level of Stanford,” Südhof told the Tagesspiegel. “This is mainly due to the enormous additional workload for scientists in teaching and care.” He said that there were not enough staff to deliver excellent research while at the same time caring for masses of patients and students.
The second selection round for the Humboldt Professorship 2023 will take place in autumn 2022. The professorship is the most valuable research award in Germany and is awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.