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The 2009 Leibniz Prize: Eleven new scientific discoverers
Date:12/11/2008

versity of Bonn. He is also a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn and a research professor at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW, Berlin).

Prof. Dr. Frank Kirchhoff (47), virology, Institute of Virology, University of Ulm (2.5 million euros)

The virologist Frank Kirchhoff is one of the world's leading AIDS researchers. Over the past two decades he has made a decisive contribution to improving the understanding of how AIDS developed and how the HI virus evolves. Kirchhoff's research has very successfully concentrated on one of the most important protein components of the HI virus, the Nef protein, which has a wide variety of very different effects: In primates it reduces the pathogenesis of the HI virus. In humans, however, its immunomodulating effect is lost, so that the virus can multiply very fast and is highly pathogenic. Other significant discoveries Kirchhoff has made include a peptide in human blood that is made up of 20 amino acid residues and which inhibits growth of the virus, and a protein in semen that forms tiny fibres that capture HI virus particles, guiding it into cells and increasing the risk of infection. These findings could help explain the high rate of HIV infection through sexual intercourse, while simultaneously pointing the way to new approaches to preventing transmission. Through his work, Kirchhoff has helped German AIDS research attain high international esteem.

Frank Kirchhoff studied biology in Gttingen and wrote his doctorate about a new HI virus-2 clone at the German Primate Centre. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the renowned Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, where he first studied the HIV Nef protein, which remained the key focus of his future work after he returned to Germany in 1994, first working as a research assistant, lecturer (Privatdozent) and finally as a professor at the University of Erlangen-Nrnberg, before accepting an appointmen
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Contact: Marco Finetti
marco.finetti@dfg.de
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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