FAU immunologist Georg Schett receives Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize

Prof. Dr. Georg Schett
Prof. Dr. Georg Schett receives Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. (Image: Simone Kessler/Uniklinikum Erlangen)

Fighting inflammation

To researchers working in the field of inflammatory diseases, Prof. Dr. Georg Schett is a very familiar name. For his outstanding scientific achievements, Schett, a physician at FAU, has now been awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is one of the most important prizes for research in Germany. The prize is worth up to 2.5 million euros, which Georg Schett can use for his research in the coming years.

“FAU congratulates Prof. Dr. Georg Schett on his outstanding success. He is an excellent researcher, whose achievements significantly advance his field and ensure that scientific findings are transferred to clinical practice. At the same time, he is a renowned head of department at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and a dedicated Vice President of our University who is firmly committed to all aspects of research – something for which I value him very highly”, says FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger.

Prof. Dr. Georg Schett is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of inflammatory and immune medicine and has made groundbreaking discoveries in the regulation of inflammation and the interaction between inflammation and autoimmunity. The most important aspect of his research is to understand how autoimmune diseases develop and why they become chronic.

During his research, Schett always keeps patients in mind as he conducts fundamental research that is based on clinical observations. Thanks to this process known as reverse translation, this year he successfully carried out the world’s first treatment for the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) using patients’ own genetically-modified immune cells. This treatment worked like a kind of “reset button” and led to complete and lasting resolution from the disease. This strategy “from the patients’ beds to the lab and back again” will provide a whole new range of possibilities for treating severe forms of autoimmune diseases in the future.

Success only possible with a closely-linked network

With more than 800 peer reviewed articles, Georg Schett has achieved something that is extremely rare: he has published his work both in leading journals for fundamental research such as Nature as well as in renowned clinical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. He has regularly featured in the list of the most-cited researchers in his field for several years now.

His close connections with fields beyond his own are crucial for his groundbreaking work as Georg Schett has set up a strong research network that includes immunology, rheumatology, gastroenterology and dermatology. He also has a wide international network and has close ties with renowned institutions such as the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm or the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in Oxford.

Springboard for emerging talent

This network has attracted a large number of excellent young scientists during the last few years who were inspired by Schett’s research, have had very successful academic careers, and are now professors themselves. None of the other chairs at FAU has been as successful in gaining as much high-profile funding, including several European Research Council (ERC) grants, for young researchers. Georg Schett has been speaker of Collaborative Research Center 1181 “Switching points for resolving inflammation” since 2015 and head of an ERC Synergy Grant since 2018 aiming to develop a new x-ray microscope to improve our understanding of changes to the structure of bones in patients with osteoporosis.

About Professor Schett

Vice President Research, Prof. Dr. Georg Schett, Chair of Internal Medicine III (Image: Simone Kessler/Uniklinikum Erlangen)

In addition to his roles as Chair of Internal Medicine III, Director of the Department of Medicine 3 and Spokesperson of the Deutsches Zentrum für Immuntherapie (DZI), Georg Schett was appointed Vice President Research at FAU in 2021. He was also appointed member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2021. He is a member of the DFG review board, a reviewer for several academic societies and journals and has collaborated on organizing a large number of international congresses. In addition, Georg Schett is open to new ideas, as shown by the multiple award winning computer game INFLAMMANIA.

Prof. Dr. Georg Schett was born in 1969 and earned his doctorate in medicine at the University of Innsbruck. He then worked as an assistant at the Research Institute for Biomedical Aging Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He completed his specialty training in internal medicine at the University of Vienna, where he subsequently worked as a specialist and senior physician and completed his habilitation in internal medicine. This was followed by a research stay at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, USA. In 2006, he accepted an appointment at the Chair of Internal Medicine III at FAU and has also been director of the Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology since then.

Leibniz Prize winners at FAU

Georg Schett is the eighth researcher at FAU to have been awarded this prestigious prize. The last FAU researcher to win the prize was laser physicist Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff in 2021. An overview of all the prize winners is available here.

About the prize

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is awarded annually and is the most prestigious research award in Germany. Each year, up to ten prizes are awarded, each of which is worth up to 2.5 million euros. The Leibniz Program aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. Prizewinners are first chosen from nominations by third parties. The Joint Committee selects the actual prizewinners based on a recommendation from the Selection Committee for the Leibniz Program. 131 nominations were submitted for this year’s prize, from which the committee selected 10 prize winners (one shared prize).

Further information can be found on the DFG website

Further information

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