Previous prize winners

From 1985 to 2004, the Körber European Science Prize was awarded to research teams whereby the advancement of international research collaboration was the main focus. In today’s research, global cooperation has become a matter of course.

Since 2005, the Körber European Science Prize has been awarded to a top scientist active in the fields of either Life Sciences or Physical Sciences in at a research institution Europe.

“The prize money enabled us to close the gap between basic research and the preparation of short-term weather forecasting, which was a striking success for applied climate research.”

Klaus Hasselmann

Climate researcher, Körber Prize winner 1990 and Nobel Prize winner for physics 2021

Clare Grey (2021): New batteries for more climate protection

The Körber European Science Prize 2021 goes to Clare Grey.

The British chemist pioneered the optimisation of batteries using NMR spectroscopy.

Botond Roska (2020): New vision for the blind

The Hungarian physician Botond Roska has set himself the goal of restoring sight to the blind. Roska has tracked down the approximately one hundred different cell types in the retina and investigated their interaction. Now the scientist is working on making these fundamental insights beneficial for patients and alleviating or curing their diseases. Roska achieved a breakthrough when he reprogrammed a cell type in the eye, enabling it to take over the function of defective light receptor cells. He was thus able to make blind retinas light-sensitive again. Clinical trials with blind patients have already begun.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

„We are bringing basic research and medicine together and, in this way, developing new methods of treatment. I want my work to contribute to the blind regaining their vision.”

Botond Roska

Botond Roska initially studied cello at the Academy of Music in Budapest, but had to give up his musical career due to an injury and subsequently completed his studies in medicine and mathematics. Together with Professor Hendrik Scholl, he became a founding director of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology of the University Basel, IOB in December 2017.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2020: New vision for the blind

Bernhard Schölkopf (2019): The computing tricks of artificial intelligence

The German physicist, mathematician and computer scientist Bernhard Schölkopf has developed mathematical methods that have made a significant contribution to helping artificial intelligence (AI) reach its most recent heights. Schölkopf and his team are investigating algorithms with which computer programs can react flexibly to situations, for example for driverless cars. He has established central methods for machine learning from which applications in biology, medicine, economics, social sciences and numerous other fields can benefit.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“Future AI systems should also understand causality: Thinking is, according to Konrad Lorenz, nothing but acting in an imagined space. The representations that we learn should reflect an understanding of how the world reacts to our actions. This goes beyond the statistical methods that are the foundation of the present methods.”

Bernhard Schölkopf

Schölkopf is the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen and co-founder of the "Cyber Valley", a centre of excellence that aims to help Germany attain a leading position in international AI competition.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2019: The Computing Tricks of Artificial Intelligence

Svante Pääbo (2018): The genes of the neanderthals

The Swedish physician Svante Pääbo, considered to be the founder of the field of paleogenetics, has managed to decode the Neanderthal genome. His work has revolutionised our understanding of the evolutionary history of modern humans; it has been significantly conducive to the realisation that Neanderthals and other extinct human groups have contributed to the ancestry of present-day humans.

Photo: Friedrun Reinhold

“Neanderthals are the closest relations of humans. Comparisons of their genome with that of humans today or with those of other extinct hominins and chimpanzees provide precise molecular biological answers to fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origin.”

Svante Pääbo studied Egyptology and Medicine at Uppsala University. As a postgraduate, writing his PhD in immunology, he also demonstrated that DNA can survive in ancient Egyptian mummies and thus gained professional fame as a pioneer in the new field of palaeogenetics. After completing his doctorate, Pääbo worked in the team of evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson at the University of California in Berkeley. From 1990 he headed his own laboratory at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In 1997 Pääbo became one of five directors at the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, where he is still active.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2018: The genes of the neanderthals

Karsten Danzmann (2017): Gravity signals from the depths of the universe

The German physicist Karsten Danzmann and his German-British team developed the key technologies used by the LIGO detectors in America to detect gravitational waves directly for the first time on September 14, 2015. Such a “vibration of space-time,” as triggered by massive collisions or explosions in space, had been predicted theoretically by Albert Einstein a century earlier. This sensational discovery signifies that researchers had opened a new window nto space. Gravitational wave astronomy makes it possible for them to use these signals of gravity to study the dark side of the cosmos.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“Gravitational wave research holds the promise of many fundamentally new discoveries because 99 percent of the universe is dark and we have hardly been able to study it [until now].”

Karsten Danzmann

Karsten Danzmann is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics. Parallel to this, he has taught at the Leibniz University of Hannover since 1993, where he is the head of the Institute of Gravitational Physics.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2017: Gravity signals from the depths of the universe

Hans Clevers (2016): Replacement organs from a petri dish

The focus of the research conducted by the Dutch biologist and physician Hans Clevers is on adult stem cells, which are capable of repairing damaged body tissue. In 2009 he developed a method for stem cells removed from the body to multiply in a practically unlimited manner. This makes it possible for organoids – such as tiny intestines, stomachs, and livers – to be bred in a Petri dish. These mini organs are suitable not only for testing drugs, which will reduce the number of animal experiments that are needed, but also for replacing organs damaged by disease. In 2013, Clevers succeeded in genetically repairing stem cells in vitro that had been taken from the intestine of a patient with the hereditary illness mucoviscidosis and then culturing them to form healthy organoids. Clevers hopes to be able to use the funds from the Körber European Science Prize to employ gene therapy to free patients with hereditary liver defects from their suffering.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“Instead of subjecting a bowel cancer patient to non-specific chemotherapy, we can give him a drug that has proven particularly effective on his laboratory-tested tumour organoids.”

Hans Clevers

Hans Clevers studied biology and medicine and was awarded his doctorate in immunology at the University of Utrecht in 1985. From 1991 to 2002 he taught immunology and following that, molecular genetics. Parallel to this, he was President of the Netherlands Academy of Sciences from 2012 until 2015. Since 2015, Clevers has directed the research department of the Princess Máxima Center in Utrecht, a new hospital for treating children suffering from cancer.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2016: Replacement organs from a petri dish

Nicola Spaldin (2015): The dawn of the oxide age

The British materials scientist Nicola Spaldin has laid the theoretical foundations for the innovative class of materials called multiferroics. These are crystalline chemical compounds consisting of metals and oxygen. What is special about these crystals is that they react both to electric and to magnetic fields. Furthermore, their internal magnetic ordering can be influenced through the use of electric fields. This predestines multiferroics for use in ultrafast, extremely small, and very energy efficient computers in the future. At some point, they could replace silicon, the basis of the computational ability of the chips used in today’s PCs and smartphones.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“In our research, we want to create material that has both good magnetic and good ferroelectric properties.”

Nicola Spaldin

As part of her doctoral thesis at the University of California at Berkeley, Nicola Spaldin investigated materials on an atomic and molecular basis, mainly semiconductors and magnetic substances. As a postdoc, she moved to the Department of Applied Physics at Yale University. After working as a full professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara from 2006 to 2010, Nicola Spaldin took up a position in the Department of Materials Research at the ETH Zurich, where she still researches and teaches.

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2015: The dawn of the oxide age

May-Britt und Edvard Moser (2014): The brain’s navigation system

The Norwegian husband and wife research team of May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered previously unknown brain nerve cells in numerous experiments on rats, cells that – as a natural navigation system – enable rodents to maintain precise orientation. Grid cells, together with other orientation neurons, divide space into an imaginary coordinate system of “longitudes” and “latitudes”. This information is used by the brain to compute cognitive maps. The brain researchers were thus the first to demonstrate an abstract mental act at the cellular level. The knowledge gained in their studies could one day help Alzheimer patients to improve their limited sense of orientation caused by the disease.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“A human remembers not only cognitive maps, also memories of daily events are always saved together with information about the location where they took place.”

May-Britt Moser

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2014: The brain’s navigation system

Immanuel Bloch (2013): Quantum gas in the laser cage

The German physicist Immanuel Bloch has succeeded in making it possible experimentally to view and study quantum mechanical processes inside matter for the first time. To do this, Bloch creates a microscopic crystal of light using laser beams, in whose optical cage he catches ultracold atoms. The atoms in the lattice of light behave similarly to electrons in metals and, like them, obey the laws of quantum mechanics. The knowledge gained with this quantum simulator should help bring more light to bear on the darkness of the partially mysterious quantum world. Bloch hopes, furthermore, that this can contribute to the development of novel types of materials, such as super-conductors that conduct electrical power loss free as well as new magnetic materials for processing information.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“We want to understand how matter works at the quantum level, thereby allowing us to produce undreamt-of material, for example one that conducts electricity frictionlessly without loss.”

Immanuel Bloch

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2013: Quantum gas in the laser cage

Matthias Mann (2012): Dragnet investigation of protein

The German physicist and bioinformatician Matthias Mann has set himself the goal of cracking the code of proteomes, i.e., of all of the proteins in the human body. Mann developed a revolutionary analytic procedure that has made the mass spectrometer useful for biologists just as it has been a proven tool in physics and chemistry for years. This tool makes it possible to analyse all of the proteins present in a cell at once, and not just qualitatively but also quantitatively. Mann first succeeded in decoding a complete proteome – of a yeast cell – as early as 2008. His team has now turned its attention to the human proteome. This research promises to provide basic knowledge for our fight against diabetes and cancer.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“There are more than 200,000 different proteins in the human body. Together they are, so to speak, the essence of life.”

Matthias Mann

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2012: Dragnet investigation of protein

Stefan Hell (2011): Bright spots in the nano world

The German physicist Stefan Hell has constructed a noveltype of light microscope that can produce much sharper images than permitted by Abbe’s limit from 1873, which previously had been thought to be practically impossible to overcome. Ernst Abbe considered the wavelength of light to constitute a natural limit to optical resolution. According to Abbe, structures smaller than 200 nanometers – half the wavelength of blue light – cannot be distinguished using an optical microscope. Yet Hell found a way – using tricks from quantum mechanics – to overcome Abbe’s limit. The STED microscope that he developed permits resolution to less than 15 nanometers. Hell’s insights have not only given physics a push, they have also created unanticipated optical nano perspectives for life scientists and biologists.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“The trick of my method is in the fact that molecules can be intentionally turned on and off by using quantum methods. Then I don’t have to worry about Abbe’s waves any more at all.”

Stefan Hell

Externes Video von YouTube laden.

Mehr dazu in unserer Datenschutzerklärung.

Stefan Hell – Körber-Preisträger 2011
  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2011: Bright spots in the nano world

Jiří Friml (2010): Auxin – Understanding Plant Growth

They are food stuff, biosphere, construction material, and medical substance. They control the climate, supply energy and oxygen, or are simply beautiful to look at. Plants are just naturally there and have been for millions of years. This makes it is all the more surprising that, until just a few years ago, no one knew precisely how they function and which processes regulate their development. Jiří Friml has made decisive contributions to our understanding of these events. He identified the hormone auxin as the universal regulator of plant development and discovered the mechanisms by which the hormone reaches the right spot at the right time. Using his discoveries, it should be possible to regulate the growth of crops in a targeted manner. Moreover, medicine should also profit from his research.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“When we have understood the mechanisms in plants, we can transfer some of this knowledge to human cells. Many fundamental mechanisms were originally discovered in plants.”

Jiří Friml

  • all photos: Friedrun Reinhold

Körber Prize 2010: Auxin – Understanding Plant Growth

Andre Geim (2009): Graphene, the thinnest material in the universe

In October 2004, the Dutch physicist Andre Geim discovered a material that researchers had previously long believed could not exist, namely ultra-flat crystals consisting of only a single layer of carbon atoms. These two-dimensional crystals called graphenes are full of surprises. They are as hard as diamonds yet pliable. They conduct electricity better and faster than most other materials and promise to revolutionise microelectronics and computer technology. In the next 10–15 years, transistors made of graphenes could replace today’s that are made of silicon. Last but not least, graphene makes it possible for scientists to study relativistic particles on their lab bench, something for which they until now needed huge particle accelerators.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“We’ve never known materials like this before, in fact, it was assumed that they couldn’t exist.”

Andre Geim

Körber-Preis 2009 für Andre Geim

Körber Prize 2009: Graphene, the thinnest material in the universe

Maria Blasco (2008): Drugs to fight cancer and aging

How do we age and why? And why do so many people develop cancer as they get older? Professor Maria Blasco from the Spanish National Cancer Center (CNIO) in Madrid searched for – and found – answers to these questions of literally vital importance. The molecular biologist conducts research in telomeres, the end pieces of chromosomes, and telomerase, an enzyme which adds to the length of a telomere. Long-term, her work promises the development of drugs to fight aging and cancer.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“The best way of growing old is to not develop cancer.”

Maria Blasco

Körber-Preis 2008 für Maria Blasco

Körber Prize 2008: Drugs to fight cancer and aging

Peter Seeberger (2007): Carbohydrate vaccinations against tropical diseases

Despite intense efforts, doctors have been unsuccessful in developing vaccines against malaria and AIDS. But now, a change is in sight. Professor Peter Seeberger from the ETH Zurich has developed a machine that attacks pathogens in a new way. From individual building blocks, the fully automated “carbohydrate synthesiser” produces synthetic carbohydrate chains that are identical to those of the pathogens, and when used in experiments on mice, they have already proven to be effective vaccine candidates.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“I believe sugar research will explode in the next few years, just as genetics did in the 1970s.”

Peter Seeberger

Peter Seeberger – Körber-Preisträger 2007

Körber Prize 2007: Carbohydrate vaccinations against tropical diseases

Ulrich Hartl (2006): Chaperones of protein folding

In the age of Queen Victoria and the German Emperor William II, chaperones provided a guarantee of morality and common decency. Since then, they have lost their significance in social regard. But in the past few years, the proteins referred to as chaperones have become a very hot topic in scientific research. Thanks to the fundamental discoveries made by the German physician and biochemist Ulrich Hartl, these chaperones may make it possible for medicine to successfully treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s in a few years. The molecular chaperones even seem to be able to slow down the aging process itself.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

“It would be fantastic if our work could make a small contribution to improving the quality of life of aging people.”

Ulrich Hartl

Franz-Ulrich Hartl – Körber-Preisträger 2006

Körber Prize 2006: Chaperones of protein folding

Philip Russell (2005): Taking light onto new paths

Thanks to a genial idea, the British physicist Philip Russell succeeded in giving the good old glass fibre cable some entirely new properties. In the magic fibres from the University of Bath, which are nearly as thin as a hair, light can not only be used to transmit data for telecommunications but also employed for completely new purposes. They make it possible, for example, to fabricate mini lasers for any colour of light, to construct extremely precise clocks, to determine the presence of minute amounts of substances in gases, and to continuously measure a person’s blood glucose level. There appear to be unlimited possibilities for finding applications in connection with technical equipment, chemical analyses, and apparatus for medical or biological measurements.

Foto: Friedrun Reinhold

„Towards the end of the 1980s, glass fibre optics had become very boring to me…Everything was functioning very well, but there was hardly any new physics in it; scientifically, it was not very exciting.“

Philip Russell

Philip Russell – Körber-Preisträger 2005

Körber Prize 2005: Taking light onto new paths

Prizewinners 1985 - 2004

2004 - Therapies for a new group of hereditary diseases
Markus Aebi, Thierry Hennet, Jaak Jaeken, Ludwig Lehle, Gert Matthijs, Kurt von Figura
2003 - Light-driven molecular walkers
Ben L. Feringa, Martin Möller, Justin Molloy, Niek F. van Hulst
2002 - Scar-free wound healing using tissue engineering
Mark W. J. Ferguson, Jeffrey A. Hubbell, Cay M. Kielty, Björn Stark, Michael G. Walker
2001 - Optimised crops through genetic engineering
Wolf-Bernd Frommer, Rainer Hedrich, Enrico Martinoia, Dale Sanders, Norbert Sauer
2000 - Perception of shape in technology with insights from nature
Rodney Douglas, Amiram Grinvald, Randolf Menzel, Wolf Singer, Christoph von der Malsburg
1999 - High-altitude platforms for telecommunications
Bernd Kröplin, Per Lindstrand, John Adrian Pyle, Michael André Rehmet
1998 - Electronic micronoses to enhance safety at the workplace
Henry Baltes, Wolfgang Göpel, Massimo Rudan
1998 - Magnetic resonance tomography with helium-3
Werner Heil, Michèle Leduc, Ernst W. Otten, Manfred Thelen
1997 - Mutant mouse models in clinical research
Pawel Kisielow, Klaus Rajewsky, Harald von Boehmer
1996 - Computer-assisted design of materials
Michael Ashby, Yves Bréchet, Michel Rappaz
1996 - Computer-assisted design of materials
Pierre Charles-Dominique, Antoine Cleef, Gerhard Gottsberger, Bert Hölldobler, Karl E. Linsenmair, Ulrich Lüttge
1995 - Genetic probes in environmental research and medicine
Rudolf Amann, Erik C. Böttger, Ulf B. Göbel, Bo Barker Jørgensen, Niels Peter Revsbech, Karl-Heinz Schleifer,Jiri Wanner
Modern plant breeding: From the cell to the plant
Dénes Dudits, Dirk Inzé, Anne Marie Lambert, Horst Lörz
1993 - Bionics of walking: The technical application of biological knowledge
Felix Chernousko, François Clarac, Holk Cruse, Friedrich Pfeiffer
1992 - The spread and transformation of contaminants in ground water
Philippe Behra, Wolfgang Kinzelbach, Ludwig Luckner, René P. Schwarzenbach, Laura Sigg
1991 - Recognizing and preventing cancer caused by environmental chemicals
Lars Ehrenberg, Dietrich Henschler, Werner Lutz, Hans-Günter Neumann
1990 - Forecasting short-term changes in climate
Lennart Bengtsson, Bert Bolin, Klaus Hasselmann
1989 - Active substances from plant cell cultures
Christian Brunold, Yury Y. Gleba, Lutz Nover, J. David Phillipson, Elmar W. Weiler, Meinhart H. Zenk
1988 - Extending the Hamburg Pyrolytic Technique to destroy toxic wastes
Alfons Buekens, Vasilij Dragalov, Walter Kaminsky, Hansjörg Sinn
1987 - Creating ultralow temperatures
Riitta Hari, Matti Krusius, Olli V. Lounasmaa, Martti Salomaa
1987 - Further development of electron holography
Karl-Heinz Herrmann, Friedrich Lenz, Hannes Lichte, Gottfried Möllenstedt
1986 - Retrovirus research (AIDS)
Jean-Claude Gluckman, Sven Haahr, George Janossy, David Klatzmann, Luc Montagnier, Paul Rácz
1985 - Applications of shock waves in medicine
Walter Brendel, Michael Delius, Georg Enders, Joseph Holl, Gustav Paumgartner, Tilman Sauerbruch
1985 - Back pressure casting technology
Teodor Balevski, Rumen Batschvarov, Emil Momtschilov, Dragan Nenov, Rangel Zvetkov