Anthony Hyman from the Max Planck Institute wins the Breakthrough Prize and the Körber Prize


EA million euros plus three million US dollars in prize money on top of that, that's what you call a successful month of research. Anthony Hyman from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden is the lucky recipient. A basic researcher straight out of a textbook who, within a few weeks, was awarded two of the world's most valuable science prizes: at the beginning of September he accepted the Körber Prize for European Science, which was presented in Hamburg, and this Thursday it was announced that the sixty-year-old researcher, together with Clifford Brangwynne from Princeton University will also receive the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Life Science.

Joachim Müller-Jung

Editor in the feuilleton, responsible for the "Nature and Science" department.

The Breakthrough Awards, of which there are several with a total endowment of 15 million dollars annually, have been awarded by American Silicon Valley billionaires for about ten years. Led by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and internet mogul Yuri Milner. The recognition of Hyman and Brangwynne in Silicon Valley is remarkable because their discovery of a completely new process within cells that leads to the organization of proteins and RNA - from so-called "condensates" - in the aqueous cell fluid was previously considered pure basic research .

It is still completely open whether the findings will lead to the hoped-for therapy of destructive brain disorders, for example. Hyman, a molecular biologist who was born in Israel and grew up in Great Britain, knows that they will not trigger a boom in medical applications overnight. He began his work in cell research in the late 1980s, back then in the laboratory of the highly respected Nobel Prize winner and pioneer of molecular biology Sydney Brenner at the University of Cambridge. He went to the University of California as a postdoc and shortly thereafter took over his own laboratory at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, where he mainly dealt with cell division.

Illustration of the inside of a yeast cell.  The large cell nucleus is visible in the middle and many small cell components distributed around it, most of which are membrane-enveloped cell organelles like the cell nucleus (brown).  The small


Illustration of the inside of a yeast cell. The large cell nucleus is visible in the middle and many small cell components distributed around it, most of which are membrane-enveloped cell organelles like the cell nucleus (brown). The small "condensates" without a shell were only discovered in 2008.
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Image: dpa


In 1999 he was one of four founding members of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden. Here - more precisely: during a student course on the US peninsula Cape Cod - he also made the groundbreaking discoveries that led him and Brangwynne to the ominous "condensates" of RNA and proteins - molecular aggregates without any membrane shell, which are found in the apparently clear, form a homogeneous cell fluid and virtually wash around all other cell organelles such as the cell nucleus or the mitochondria as cell power plants. They later called the tiny molecule “droplets” “P-Granula” in their first publication.



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