DESY News: Karl Heinz Beckurts Prize awarded at DESY


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Karl Heinz Beckurts Prize awarded at DESY

Vasilis Ntziachristos receives this year's prize; Medals of Honour for BioNTech researchers and CureVac founder

Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos, head of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging (IBMI) at Helmholtz Zentrum München and professor at Technische Universität München, has been awarded this year’s Karl Heinz Beckurts Prize, which is worth 30, 000 euros. The pioneers of mRNA vaccine Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci (BioNTech) and Ingmar Hoerr (CureVac) received Medals of Honour for their achievements. Theses medals are being awarded for the first time by the Karl Heinz Beckurts Foundation. The presentation of the prestigious research award took place at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg. During the award event top researchers and industryhad the opportunity to exchange ideas on the campus.

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Award ceremony of the Karl Heinz Beckurts Foundation: Roland Busch, Ingmar Hoerr, awardee Vasilis Ntziachristos, Christian Stegmann, on the screen: Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci. (Photo: DESY, Jörg Modrow)
Listening to light: Vasilis Ntziachristos was awarded for his outstanding achievements and pioneering work in the field of biomedical imaging. The jury found the "Multispectral Optoacoustic Tomography" (MSOT) technology he developed, which works with laser light and ultrasound – in other words, with optical and acoustic imaging – particularly groundbreaking. In order for MSOT to be widely available, Ntziachristos founded his own company eleven years ago. Dr. Roland Busch, Chairman of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and member of the Beckurts Foundation Board, paid tribute to the award winner: "Vasilis Ntziachristos combines outstanding fundamental research with entrepreneurial commitment. We owe him a unique innovation: a completely new form of ultrasound tomography. This technology will significantly improve cancer diagnostics or diseases of the cardiovascular system and thus also increase the chances of recovery for many people."

For the first time, the award ceremony also highlighted researchers who have introduced results from fundamental research into important applications. The medals of honour went to the BioNTech research couple Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci as well as CureVac founder Ingmar Hoerr. They were honoured for their outstanding achievements in the field of mRNA vaccine development.  Professor Christian Stegmann, DESY Director for Astrophysics and Chairman of the Beckurts Foundation's Board of Directors, said: "The work that has been done in mRNA vaccine research in Germany alone is fantastic and we are pleased to honour outstanding researchers like Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci and Ingmar Hoerr. They have not only shown great research spirit, but also courageous entrepreneurship. We will only be able to judge the full impact of their work on humanity in the future. But we already know that they have shown the entire world a way out of the pandemic. For that, we thank them very much."


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DESY tour during the Karl Heinz Beckurts Award Ceremony (from left): Oliver Seeck (Group Leader Photon Science at DESY), Wim Leemans (Director of the DESY Accelerator Division), Roland Busch, Helmut Dosch, Ingmar Hoerr, Vasilis Ntziachristos, Venetia Ntziachristos, Christian Stegmann, Arik Willner (CTO DESY). (Photo: DESY, Jörg Modrow)
This year, the award ceremony took place on the DESY research campus in Hamburg. High-level representatives from science and industry took the opportunity to network and learn more about some of the world's leading accelerator and experimental facilities. Professor Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors, said: "Fundamental research, technology development and transfer meet on our campus. That is why we feel connected to the world-class research honoured by the Beckurts Foundation. We are proud that DESY was allowed to host the award ceremony."


Watch a recording of the event on the DESY YouTube channel:


About the Karl Heinz Beckurts Prize

The Prize is dedicated to the German physicist and manager Karl Heinz Beckurts (1930-1986) and has been awarded by the Karl Heinz Beckurts Foundation since 1989. With this award, the Foundation honours outstanding scientific and technical achievements that are also of economic significance. Medals of Honour are being awarded for the first time this year on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the murder of Karl Heinz Beckurts and his driver Eckhard Groppler by the RAF.

About the Karl Heinz Beckurts Foundation

The Helmholtz Association, together with Siemens AG, established the Foundation in memory of researcher and manager Professor Karl Heinz Beckurts. The 18 centres of the Helmholtz Association take turns to co-chair the Foundation with Siemens AG. Beckurts was chairman of the Working Group of Major Research Institutions (the predecessor organisation of the Helmholtz Association) from 1973 to 1976, chairman of the board of the then Nuclear Research Facility Jülich from 1976 and a member of the board of Siemens AG from 1980.