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Outstanding dissertations

Two Freiburg doctoral candidates receive awards for medical systems biology

Freiburg, Jul 18, 2018

Outstanding dissertations

From the left: Bernhard Steiert, Helge Haß. Photo: MTZ®-Stiftung

The MTZ® Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research have awarded two Freiburg scientists the MTZ® Award for Medical Systems Biology 2018 for their dissertations. In his work, Dr. Helge Haß has mathematically modeled the interaction of different receptors on the cell surface and its influence on cancer therapy. In his dissertation based on a system-biological methodology, Dr. Bernhard Steiert has investigated mathematical modeling and data analysis on how to improve the drug development and the personalized treatment of diseases such as anemia. Both pursued their doctoral work under Prof. Dr. Jens Timmer at the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg. The prize money of 10,000 euros will be shared with the third prize winner, Dr. Christoph Thiel from RWTH Aachen University.

In his work, Helge Haß has set the goal to make use of mathematical modeling for patient-specific therapies. The starting point was cancer therapies, in which signal transduction in diseased cells is to be suppressed; however, this may be prevented by the interaction of receptors on the cell surface, which receive and process these signals. Using a model of the biochemical cell network, he significantly improved the predictions of the potential effectiveness of different therapies. For future application, only a tumor genome sequencing is needed, something that is already routinely feasible today.

Bernhard Steiert focused on how healthy and diseased cells encode and process information. In particular, he analyzed how patients react to drugs against anemia and why different people respond differently to treatment. This understanding allowed the categorization of all patients, who in turn needed completely different amounts of drug and time of administration depending on the category. Ultimately, he has made it possible to use a mathematical model to predict individualized optimal dosing protocols in real time that are both safe and effective.

According to the jury's view, the two dissertations exemplify how mathematical modeling of cellular processes, which is part of basic research in computer-aided biology, can lead to potential medical applications. The system approach can help develop patient-specific therapies and predict their effectiveness.


MTZ®-Award for Medical Systems Biology

The MTZ®-Award for Medical Systems Biology has been awarded every two years since 2008. It honors outstanding dissertation work of young scientists in the field of medically oriented systems biology. The award is intended to give the promising young scientists special visibility and public recognition.


Dr. Helge Haß
Institute of Physics
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-8533

Dr. Bernhard Steiert
Institute of Physics
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-97202