2019 Hansen Family Award goes to Professor Edith Heard

Professor Edith Heard got this year’s award Hansen Family Award, and the Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation and the Scientific Committee for this award have presented her with one of Germany’s most prestigious scientific accolades including a prize money of €75,000.

The award is in recognition for Heard’s groundbreaking insights and paradigm shifting discoveries in the area of epigenetics. The award will be officially presented by Bayer CEO Werner Baumann at a ceremony in Leverkusen on October 28, 2019, bayer said in an announcement on Wednesday.

The Hansen Family Award honors scientists who have conducted pioneering research in innovative areas of biology and medicine. It has been presented since 2000 in memory of its endower, the late Professor Kurt Hansen. The former Bayer AG Board of Management and Supervisory Board Chairman established the award in 1999, “in gratitude for a fulfilling life as a natural scientist and businessman.”

Professor Edith Heard has won this prestigious award for her pioneering work in revealing the molecular mechanism of X-chromosome inactivation (XCI), Byer said.

As explained in the press release, in this fascinating process, one of the two copies of the X-chromosome is inactivated in some female mammals – including humans! Moreover, she co-discovered the topologically associating domains (TADs), which are units of chromosome organization in the cell nucleus. Understanding the interplay between chromatin structure and gene activity is essential for the development of new drugs aimed at treating cancer and other diseases.

Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, said: “Most biological phenomena, including pathogenic ones, like the many manifestations of cancer, are regulated both by their underlying genetics and epigenetics. With her fundamental work on X-chromosome inactivation in mammals, Prof. Heard has made major contributions to the foundations of epigenetics thereby opening potentially novel routes to the treatment of complex diseases. Thus, Edith Heard is regarded as one of the world leaders in this rapidly advancing and important field.”

Kemal Malik, member of the Bayer Board of Management for Innovation and Chairman of the foundation said: “As an innovation driven company, Bayer’s mission statement of “Science for a Better Life” demonstrates our belief that the future of society will be shaped by advances in basic and applied research. The knowledge and understanding of future technologies in the life sciences are key elements of this and Bayer wishes to contribute through its foundations and by awarding this prize.”

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