Prof. Dr. Christof Niehrs (40), development biology/genetics/zoology, German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg (1.55 million euros)
Christof Niehrs is well-known around the world as the development biologist who has answered many of the central questions in his field. His answers, together with an understanding of the underlying genomes, have laid the foundations for future contributions to questions which have not yet been answered, such as the question of shape and size in biology. Christof Niehrs has made his name in three fields of research:
For studying mesoderm formation in amphibians (xenopus) he developed a gene expression screen for analysing gene activity in xenopus embryos. In the course of this research a number of control genes were identified which play a part in the development of the embryo.
A second key focus of Niehrs' work relates to the Spemann organiser function, a piece of tissue from the amphibian embryo which has the power to induce a complete new embryo following transplantation.
Possibly the most spectacular work presented by Christof Niehrs has been on the development mechanism of the embryo's head; this work has helped to solve one of the central problems which hampered even Spemann's research results.