Leibniz Prize 2013 for Frankfurt professor Ivan Dikic
6th December 2012. In recognition of his groundbreaking work in decrypting the Ubiquitin code, Ivan Dikic is to receive the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize 2013, Germany’s most prestigious scientific award. The award is funded and presented by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It is the research prize with the highest endowment worldwide and comes with a grant of 2.5 M €.
Ubiquitin is a small protein which is abundant in all cells. It first became famous as ‘kiss of death’ due to its ability to target other proteins for degradation. Today a much more complex role for Ubiquitin has been established, and Ivan Dikic was one of the pioneers in the field unraveling the mechanisms by which this amazing regulator achieves high specificity despite its ubiquitous presence.
Ubiquitin exerts its action by being attached to other proteins in multiple different ways, leading to an almost unlimited number of possible structures. Ivan Dikic was among the first to conceptualize and prove that these Ubiquitin modifications work like codes that are recognized by highly specific domains in other proteins, thereby bringing interaction partners in a cell together like a matching key and lock. His contribution to decrypting the code by which Ubiquitin mediates its signals fundamentally changed the view on the power of this small regulator, not only in healthy cells, but also in human diseases. Small changes in this fine-tuned system can make a big difference, and this is the reason why Ubiquitin is also involved in a wide range of pathophysiological processes, e.g. neurodegenerative disorders, immunological diseases and cancer.
As announced by the DFG today, his groundbreaking work will now be honored with the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize 2013.
“I am deeply honored and touched by this news today. It is a special feeling and great joy for me to receive this most prestigious research award in Germany. My gratitude goes to all students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues in Frankfurt with whom I shared the passion and excitement of doing science”, says Dikic. Prof. Werner Müller-Esterl, president of the Goethe University, congratulated his colleague: “Ivan Dikic is the ideal prototype of a research-active medic, who invests enormous enthusiasm and almost infinite energy into science and education. I value him for his originality and conceptual thinking, paired with leadership skills and assertiveness.”
Ivan Dikic graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. He obtained his PhD and postdoctoral training in the renowned Schlessinger lab at New York University before he took up a group leader position at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Uppsala/Sweden. In 2002, Dikic joined the Goethe University Frankfurt.
Today, Dikic is leading the Institute for Biochemistry 2 (IBC2) and the recently founded Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Besides being a passionate scientist, he is also committed to education of younger scientists and to communicating science to the general public, not only in Germany, but also in his native country Croatia. He has been elected member of European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.
Prof. Ivan Dikic, Institute for Biochemistry II and Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
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BMLS Director Ivan Dikic selected to receive the 2013 ASBMB William C. Rose Award
1st August 2012 - The William C. Rose Award recognizes outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research as well as to the training of younger scientists, as epitomized by the late Dr. Rose. Since 1979, it is awarded annually by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Ivan Dikic was nominated for the award in recognition of his pioneering work on the role of Ubiquitin.
Ivan Dikic got interested in this small protein more than 10 years ago, when he realized how poorly understood the complexity of the system was. Ubiquitin is covalently attached to thousands of cellular proteins, thereby regulating many processes. Dikic showed that Ubiquitin acts as a multivalent cellular signal recognized by an expanding number of binding proteins that in turn translate this molecular signal into appropriate cellular phenotypes. His group identified several novel Ubiquitin binding domains and used structural and functional studies to demonstrate their roles in the regulation of DNA repair, inflammation, receptor endocytosis, and proteasomal degradation. Most recently, they have described mechanisms by which linear Ubiquitination can regulate the NF-kB pathway and apoptosis.
In addition, Ivan Dikic has also mentored numerous young scientists in Germany as well as Croatia. Besides leading the Institute of Biochemistry II and the Buchmann Institute in Frankfurt, he has established a Laboratory for Tumor Biology at the Medical School in Split where he supports training and education of young scientists in Croatia. He is an active promoter of popularization of science in general public in many programs (public lectures, media science discussion, and organization of multidisciplinary courses).
Ivan Dikic grew up in Croatia, where he trained as a medical doctor. He obtained his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Zagreb while working under the supervision of Joseph Schlessinger at New York University Medical Center. He is currently a Professor at Goethe University Medical School and Director of the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences in Frankfurt, Germany. His recent recognitions and awards include the election in the German Academy Leopoldina (2010) and EMBO (2004), the ERC Advanced grant 2010, the German Cancer Prize 2010, and the Hans Krebs Prize 2010.
Link to ASBMB press release.
A new toolkit for monitoring Ubiquitin in living cells
18th July 2012 - Ubiquitin (Ub) is a small regulatory molecule which can be attached to other proteins in the cell, thereby exerting highly specific signals. Ub attachments come in many different shapes; very often chains are formed via Lysines or the first Methionine linkages between different Ub molecules involved. Due to this variability, an almost unlimited repertoire of Ub signals exists, regulating numerous processes in cells from all higher organisms.
This ubiquitous presence of Ub makes it extremely difficult to develop tools for detecting and tracing the role of the molecule in specific processes. Up to now, tools were rather rudimentary and mainly focused on the biochemical characterization of the players involved. As published in the latest online issue of Molecular Cell, a group of scientists led by Ivan Dikic managed to develop highly versatile sensors for specific Ub chains and successfully demonstrated their application in living cells.
The scientists borrowed from nature’s repertoire to design the novel biosensors. They isolated specific Ub binding domains, which proteins use to recognize Ub, and fused it to fluorescent tags. By engineering different binding domains in such a way, structurally similar Ub chains could be selectively distinguished. The scientists subsequently employed their new tools to monitor how Salmonella bacteria within the cell are tackled by the internal defense mechanisms, to monitor DNA damage responses, and to interfere with intracellular signaling pathways. The versatile applicability of this new prototypical Ub sensors, ranging from fixed to living cells, will serve as starting point to track-and-trace other types of Ub and similar signals, like SUMO or LC3. Link to full article.
CEF successful in new round of Excellence Initiative
15th June 2012 - The Joint Commission of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the German Council of Science and Humanities confirmed today that CEF is one of the Clusters of Excellence to receive funding in the new round of the German Excellence Initiative. This new multi-million Euro grant will begin in November 2012 and will last for five years. It confirms the high quality and international competitiveness of the CEF´s research.
CEF Director Harald Schwalbe is delighted: “There could be no better confirmation of the quality of the CEF’s research. The decision shows that we are on the right track with our research plans and support for junior scientists.”
The funding will be used to investigate macromolecular complexes not only with respect to their composition, three dimensional structures, dynamics in biological reactions and localization within cells but also with respect to their regulated interactions and their roles as constituting parts of macromolecular machines and even entire organelles. Bringing together studies that range from atomic detail to cellular function, CEF will build on a unique portfolio of a wide range of relevant state-of-the-art methods present in Frankfurt. CEF will continue to contribute to the understanding of fundamental functional mechanisms of macromolecular complexes in its established research areas. An entirely new research area will be devoted to the design of macromolecular complexes, thus capitalizing on the achievements during the first funding period. The introduction of optogenetics, to which CEF-I scientists made major contributions, is an example in this context. To drive interdisciplinary research to new frontiers and explore functions of macromolecular assemblies at an increasing level of complexity, the CEF will start a new program to support exceptionally innovative CEF focus projects on a competitive basis.
The Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt for Macromolecular Complexes (CEF) is a consortium of scientists from four different faculties of the Goethe University, the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics and the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, all situated in Frankfurt/Main. CEF was founded in 2006 in the first round of the German Excellence Initiative. It is one of three Clusters of Excellence at the Goethe University Frankfurt. CEF is dedicated to scientific excellence and early independence of young researchers, and has achieved international visibility as a leading center for research in the life sciences.
As part of the Excellence Initiative a total of 64 proposals for clusters of excellence and 63 proposals for graduate schools were reviewed between November and the end of February 2012 by 37 international expert panels made up of about 480 scientists.