The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the highest honor in the German research landscape and is awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). This year, ten researchers were chosen from 131 nominees to receive the prize. The winners represent different fields, i.e., humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, engineering sciences, and life sciences, with four female and six male researchers in total. Each winner receives EUR 2.5 million to fund further research for up to seven years. This year’s awards ceremony for the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize took place in Berlin, Germany, on March 15, 2023.
The following researchers have received the 2023 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize:
- Largus Angenent, University of Tübingen
Largus Angenent is recognized for his outstanding work in the field of environmental biotechnology with which he has made key contributions to microbial electrochemistry. His work is highly topical in view of climate change and the resulting need for a sustainable food, chemical, and energy economy. For example, he uses a combination of microbial fermentation processes with electrochemistry and synthetic biology to convert organic waste and industrial waste gases into valuable organic products.
- Claudia Höbartner, University of Würzburg
Claudia Höbartner is recognized for her work in the fields of organic and biomolecular chemistry of functional nucleic acids. With her elucidation of the first structure of a DNA enzyme that catalyzes a linkage of RNA strands, she has provided insights into the active center of the catalyst at the atomic level, making a significant contribution to the chemistry of catalytically active nucleic acids. She also uses novel chemical methods and elements of chemical biology to synthesize and label modified RNA in order to investigate and visualize the biological functions of RNA as well as natural and artificially produced RNA modifications.
- Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart
Achim Menges is recognized for his research in the field of digital planning methods and robotic manufacturing in architecture, which enable new types of construction. His research aims to achieve end-to-end digital processing of construction from design to execution. His innovative architectural designs are inspired by natural biological forms, using forward-looking techniques and computational intelligence tools. In this way, his work also contributes to the conservation of resources and the reduction of energy- and process-related CO2 emissions in the construction industry.
- Sarah Ellen O’Connor, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena
Natural Product Biosynthesis
Sarah Ellen O’Connor is recognized for her fundamental discoveries relating to natural product biosynthesis in plants. She explores biosynthetic pathways in plants and uses the discovery of new gene functions, the elucidation of enzymatic mechanisms of action, and molecular genetic and genomic methods to decipher the synthesis of even the most complex natural compounds, such as cancer-inhibiting or neuroactive substances. For example, her research group recently succeeded in completely elucidating the biosynthetic pathway of strychnine. She also uses the insights gained in the process to produce novel compounds in plants, which opens up possibilities for the optimized production of natural substances as well as synthetic access to new classes of molecules.
- Stefan Pfister, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University
Stefan Pfister is recognized for his research in the field of pediatric oncology, which has improved the diagnosis of brain tumors in children and provided patients with better therapy. His analyses of brain tumor tissue using novel genomic-based molecular approaches, taking into account such factors as changes in the expression of genes and their epigenetic regulation, have shown that brain tumors are based on not one, but many different disease mechanisms. His research has enabled a new molecular-pathological classification of childhood brain tumors which has been recognized and adopted by the World Health Organization.
- Hartmut Rosa, University of Jena and University of Erfurt
Hartmut Rosa is recognized for his groundbreaking work in the field of normatively based critical analysis of modern societies. In his study Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, Rosa provides a comprehensive, philosophically grounded sociological analysis of the dynamics of acceleration through time that shape modern societies while at the same time posing enormous challenges to the individuals in these societies. Rosa also developed a theory of “world relations”.
- Georg Schett, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Georg Schett is recognized for his outstanding research in the fields of rheumatology and osteoimmunology, with which he has made important fundamental scientific contributions while also developing innovative therapies to cure even severe forms of autoimmune diseases. Among other things, he has conducted research into the role of autoantibodies in the formation of bone-degrading cells in rheumatoid arthritis. He discovered that, as a result of this mechanism, sufferers can develop systemic bone loss that is independent of the inflammation.
- Catharina Stroppel, University of Bonn
Catharina Stroppel is recognized for her excellent work in representation theory, especially on the topic of category theory. Representation theory is the mathematical field that deals with symmetries and their various realizations. Symmetries are of key importance in nature as well as in mathematics, for example in physics in relation to the structure of crystals. Stroppel works in representation theory with multiple links to knot theory and also areas such as low-dimensional topology. In particular, she has proven profound Bernstein-Frenkel-Khovanov conjectures, providing a representation-theoretical description and a categorization of Khovanov homology.
- Fabian Theis, University of Würzburg, Helmholtz Center Munich and TU Munich
Bio- and Medical Informatics
Fabian Theis is recognized for his pioneering work in the analysis, modeling, and interpretation of genomic data. He has developed new methods for biomedical data analysis, especially for single-cell genomics. He applies this, for example, to achieve a better understanding of the developmental pathways of cells, improved medical diagnostics, risk identification, and therapy development, as well as to study the cellular changes that occur after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. He also co-coordinates the Human Lung Cell Atlas project, which aims to identify cells that are relevant to the development of lung diseases such as asthma.
- Anita Traninger, Freie Universität Berlin
Romance Literary Studies
Anita Traninger is recognized for her internationally recognized studies in early modern Romance studies. These combine philology, rhetoric, history of science, and media history in an innovative way, providing a whole new perspective on the dynamics of culture and knowledge transfer. In particular, her understanding of rhetoric as a historically variable ensemble of media-bound practices is groundbreaking in light of the traditional yet still widespread notion of rhetoric as a rigid set of rules. She consistently questions the seemingly fixed epochal boundaries between Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern Period.
Recent Publications by the Recipients
- Acetate augmentation boosts the ethanol production rate and specificity by Clostridium ljungdahlii during gas fermentation with pure carbon monoxide,
Sarah Schulz, Bastian Molitor, Largus T. Angenent,
Bioresource Technol. 2023, 369, 128387.
- Tailored Tolane‐Perfluorotolane Assembly as Supramolecular Base Pair Replacement in DNA,
Hermann Neitz, Irene Bessi, Valentin Kachler, Manuela Michel, Claudia Höbartner,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022.
- Plants as inspiration for material-based sensing and actuation in soft robots and machines,
Thomas Speck, Tiffany Cheng, Frederike Klimm, Achim Menges, Simon Poppinga, Olga Speck, Yasaman Tahouni, Falk Tauber, Marc Thielen,
MRS Bulletin 2023.
- Directed Biosynthesis of Mitragynine Stereoisomers,
Carsten Schotte, Yindi Jiang, Dagny Grzech, Thu-Thuy T. Dang, Larissa C. Laforest, Francisco León, Marco Mottinelli, Satya Swathi Nadakuduti, Christopher R. McCurdy, Sarah E. O’Connor,
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2023, 145, 4957–4963.
- Synthesis, dynamis, praxis: Critical theory’s ongoing struggle with the concept of society,
Hartmut Rosa, Peter Schulz,
Eur. J. Soc. Theory 2022.
- VEXAS syndrome mimicking lupus-like disease,
Larissa Valor-Méndez, Michael Sticherling, Martin Zeschick, Raja Atreya, F Daniela Schmidt, Frank Waldfahrer, Marc Saake, Ulrike Hüffmeier, Georg Schett, Jürgen Rech,
- A Lie theoretic categorification of the coloured Jones polynomial,
Catharina Stroppel, Joshua Sussan,
J. Pure Appl. Algebra 2022, 226, 107043.
- Common molecular features of H3K27M DMGs and PFA ependymomas map to hindbrain developmental pathways,
Matthew Pun, Drew Pratt, Patricia R. Nano, Piyush K. Joshi, Li Jiang, Bernhard Englinger, Arvind Rao, Marcin Cieslik, Arul M. Chinnaiyan, Kenneth Aldape, Stefan Pfister, Mariella G. Filbin, Aparna Bhaduri, Sriram Venneti,
Acta Neuropathol. Commun. 2023.
- Biologically informed deep learning to query gene programs in single-cell atlases,
Mohammad Lotfollahi, Sergei Rybakov, Karin Hrovatin, Soroor Hediyeh-zadeh, Carlos Talavera-López, Alexander V. Misharin, Fabian J. Theis,
Nat. Cell Biol. 2023.
- Las ninfas de los ríos: Echo(s) zwischen Miguel de Cervantes, Paul Valéry und Jorge Luis Borges als Grundlegung einer Theorie literarischer Resonanz,
arcadia 2021, 56, 44–64.