Stefan Jentsch, 1955-2016
The Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) mourns the loss of Departmental Director Stefan Jentsch, who unexpectedly died on 29 October. He received many awards for his fundamental contributions to our understanding of cellular regulation by the protein ubiquitin, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Council (DFG). “We have not only lost an outstanding scientist, but also a wonderful colleague“, says Petra Schwille, Managing Director at the MPIB. “Stefan’s untimely death leaves a void at the Institute as well as in the scientific community“.
Stefan Jentsch studied biology at Freie Universität Berlin (1974-79). He performed his doctoral thesis on “DNA Modifications by Methyltransferases” with Thomas A. Trautner at the MPI for Molecular Genetics (PhD in 1983). During his postdoctoral studies from 1985-88 with Alexander Varshavsky at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA, he began his groundbreaking work on ubiquitin-mediated degradation of proteins. This topic henceforth played a central role in his research career, beginning with a group leader position at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society in Tübingen (1988-93) and leading to a professorship at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) in Heidelberg. Since 1998, Stefan Jentsch has been a Scientific Member and Director of the Molecular Cell Biology Department at the MPIB in Martinsried. He discovered that modification of proteins with the small protein ubiquitin does not only promote protein degradation, but also fulfills many additional essential functions in cellular regulation. Stefan Jentsch could show that the ubiquitin system plays a crucial role both in maintaining genome stability and DNA repair. His discoveries led to pioneering insights into molecular mechanisms of mutagenesis. In addition to his scientific research, Stefan Jentsch was always especially dedicated to supporting young scientists. He very highly valued working in a collegial atmosphere and felt a strong commitment to helping junior researchers.