The winner of the first Hamburg Science Award, granted in 2009, is the biomedical specialist Prof. Dr. Stefan Ehlers. On 19 November 2009 the award, worth € 100,000, was granted in a ceremony held in Hamburg’s City Hall in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust, and the award sponsors Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Helmut Greve and Prof. Dr. h.c. Hannelore Greve. The microbiologist Prof. Dr. Jan Buer of Essen University Hospital gave the speech in honour of the prizewinner.
Professor Ehlers is head of the Department of Microbial Inflammation Research at the Borstel Research Centre and holds the chair of molecular inflammation medicine at the University of Kiel. The jury granted him the award in recognition of his work on developing near-hospital model systems for research into the forms and treatment of tuberculosis. Infections with multiresistant tuberculosis bacteria that cannot be treated with standard antibiotics are on the increase all over the world. Professor Ehlers and his working group will use the prize money to set up a testing station at the Borstel Research Center to test the efficacy of new antibiotics at treating tuberculosis in animal trials.
Stefan Ehlers, born in 1957, studied medicine at the University of Freiburg from 1978 to 1985 and then spent several years as a research assistant at the Free University of Berlin’s Institute of Medical Microbiology and at several Berlin hospitals. In 1994 he qualified as a specialist in microbiology and infection epidemiology. In 1996 he took his second PhD in medical microbiology and infection immunology. Since 1996 he has held various positions at the Borstel Research Centre, he teaches at the Universities of Lübeck and Kiel, and he has spent several periods doing research in the United States. Since its foundation in 2007 Prof. Ehlers has been deputy spokesman for the Cluster of Excellence on Inflammation at Interfaces (Borstel/Kiel/Lübeck).
The 2009 Hamburg Science Award was to be granted for work on infection research. Infections, along with heart and circulatory diseases, are the most frequent cause of death in the world. Population growth, global mobility, vaccine fatigue, increasing resistance to antibiotics and the emergence of previously unknown germs require new approaches in prevention, diagnostics and therapy. Making infection research in Germany visible and giving this research field a further boost were the reasons for making infection research the focus of the Hamburg Science Award.
A jury chaired by the president of the academy, Prof. Dr. Heimo Reinitzer, chose the prizewinner. In addition to the quality of scientific work to date, key criteria for awarding the prize are the relevance and future orientation of the findings and the use to which the prize money is to be put.