Christof Niehrs is appointed founding director of the Institute of Molecular Biology at Mainz University

Renowned cell and development biologist and recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize is to head the new research center on molecular biology


The renowned cell and development biologist Professor Christof Niehrs is founding director of the new Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The institute, which is still under construction and is scheduled to start operations in early 2011, is thus being headed by a leading biological scientist. "We are very pleased that an important scientist such as Professor Christof Niehrs will extend the research center. He has the right abilities to promote top research in molecular biology in Mainz," said Otto Boehringer, Chairman of the Board of the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation. On the occasion of the125th anniversary of the Boehringer Ingelheim company in 2010, the foundation decided to fund the scientific operation of an excellence center for life sciences with the amount of EUR 100 million over a period or 10 years. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate financed the institute building.

Professor Christof Niehrs has been honored with several prizes and awards for his important scientific achievements, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz prize of the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is the most valuable German research prize. The 48-year old researcher has recently received an Advanced Grant worth EUR 2.4 million from the European Research Council for his work at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, where he was heading the Department of Molecular Embryology. Niehrs regards his appointment in Mainz as a consistent advancement of his scientific career. "I am very much looking forward to my new responsibilities. I am proud to be able to help shape the path of the new research center for life sciences." He will start work on July 1, 2010.

Minister of Science Doris Ahnen was convinced that "this exceptional personnel decision will help the new Institute of Molecular Biology in Mainz expand its influence as an excellence center far beyond the borders of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate." She called IMB a genuine milestone in the development of interdisciplinary research at Mainz University and the scientific environment in the entire state. "The appointment of Professor Christof Niehrs indicates that the size and equipment of the new Institute of Molecular Biology fulfills international standards for top research. I am confident that it will attract more high-caliber scientists to Mainz," emphasized University President Professor Georg Krausch. The new research center will combine several biomedical fields such as developmental biology, epigenetics, and DNA repair under one roof. The university expects that the new institute will create about 180 new jobs.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931-1991), a member of the shareholder family of the company Boehringer Ingelheim. Through its PLUS 3 Perspectives Program and Exploration Grants, the foundation supports independent group leaders; it also endows the internationally renowned Heinrich Wieland Prize as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists. The foundation has granted EUR 100 million over a period of ten years to finance the scientific activities of the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.