Researcher Wins Prestigious Biochemistry Award

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Bernd Bodenmiller has been selected to receive the prestigious Friedrich Miescher Award 2019 for his research at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences of the University of Zurich. The prize is Switzerland's highest distinction for young scientists performing outstanding research in the field of biochemistry.

Bernd Bodenmiller is a quantitative biologist at the University of Zurich. The 39-year-old researches how different cells in cancer tissue interact and uses imaging techniques and computer analyses to visualize these relationships. The jury chose Bodenmiller for his original thinking in his approach to a biological question that directly relates to most forms of cancer. The development of the techniques he is researching affects all research topics in the fields of the life sciences and health care.

Basic research for tailored therapy

The mass cytometry method that Bodenmiller and his team helped advance provides in-depth insights into the various stages of a tumor. It can be used to quantify cancerous growths right down to the level of individual cells and visualize these in high-resolution 3D animations. This helps precision medicine better understand the extremely dynamic processes of millions of tumor cells. “We can generate very detailed images of the tissue. These shows us which cells are located where, what they do, and how they interact and communicate,” explains Bodenmiller.

The more we know about the cells’ behavior in the various stages of cancer as well as the tumor’s composition, the more targeted we can fight the progression of the disease. The insights gained thanks to the basic research performed by Bernd Bodenmiller can thus help clinical specialists to develop therapies that are tailored to the patients’ needs.

Multiple awards

Bernd Bodenmiller studied biochemistry at the University of Bayreuth and ETH Zurich. As a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, he developed methods for high-throughput analysis of signaling network states through mass cytometry. He has been SNSF assistant professor for quantitative biology at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Molecular Life Sciences since 2013. In the same year, he was awarded with a coveted ERC Starting Grant and in 2017, he received the UK’s Grand Challenge Award of Cancer Research as a member of an international research group. Bodenmiller has also been the founding director of the Department of Quantitative Biomedicine at UZH since the beginning of this year.

Friedrich Miescher Award

The Friedrich Miescher Award is Switzerland’s highest distinction for outstanding achievements in biochemistry. Prize-winners must be younger than 40 years and either hold Swiss citizenship or have carried out their research in Switzerland. The prize, worth 20,000 Swiss francs, was established in 1969 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of DNA by the Basel scientist Friedrich Miescher and is awarded by the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel. The official award ceremony will take place on 14 February 2019 at the annual meeting of the LS² (Life Sciences Switzerland) society at the University of Zurich.
Link to the event