Albany Medical Center Prize for F.-Ulrich Hartl

August 03, 2016
F.-Ulrich Hartl, director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, will receive, together with Arthur L. Horwich and Susan L. Lindquist, this year’s Albany Medical Center Prize. The Albany Medical and Research Prize is endowed with $ 500,000 (450,000 €) and is one of America’s most distinguished Prizes in Medicine. The three awardees were honored for their fundamental and complementary discoveries related to the mechanism of protein folding. The prize will be awarded on September 28 in Albany, NY, USA.

Proteins are small molecular machines within each cell that perform a wide variety of essential tasks. To carry out their critical functions, newly produced immature chain-like proteins have to fold into specific, three-dimensional structures. In the 1980s F.-Ulrich Hartl and Arthur L. Horwich proved that proteins do not fold spontaneously, as had previously been thought. Rather, they need assistants in their folding process, so called chaperones.

Hartl and Horwich discovered that certain chaperones function as cage-like ‘folding machines’, offering newly synthesized proteins a protected environment, which allows them to fold properly and adopt their appropriate functional structures. Misfolded proteins are one of the main causes of severe neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington's disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, protein misfolding plays an important role in aging.

Prof. F.-Ulrich Hartl originally studied medicine, and has been a director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry since 1997 where he is the head of the department of 'Cellular Biochemistry'. Prof. Hartl has recently been honored with a number of different scientific prizes such as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2002, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2011 and the Shaw Prize together with Horwich in 2012.

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