The physician, bioinformatician, molecular biologist and GDR civil rights activist received the award for his exceptional scientific achievements and his personal and political courage. The award was presented to him at the annual assembly of Leopoldina on October 2nd in Halle (Saale), Germany. He is the first recipient of the 50,000 Euro award.
Jens Reich was born in Göttingen in 1939 and grew up in the GDR. He studied medicine at Humboldt University Berlin and worked in Halberstadt as a physician in a hospital and in a state-run medical practice. Then he completed specialist training in biochemistry at the University of Jena. In 1969 he became a researcher and later a department head at the Central Institute of Molecular Biology of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in Berlin-Buch.
In 1970 Jens Reich was one of the founders of the "Friday Circle", a discussion group of opposition-minded citizens critical of the GDR system. In 1984, he lost his position as department head in Berlin-Buch because of his refusal to break off his contacts in West Germany and to report to GDR officials (Stasi). Under the pseudonym Thomas Asperger he published critical analyses of the system in the GDR in the West German journal "Lettre International". Jens Reich is a co-founder of the citizens' movement "New Forum" of September 1989. From March 18 to October 2, 1990 he served as a member of the first and only freely elected parliament of the GDR.
In 1991 Jens Reich returned to his research activities and went to the U.S. as visiting professor at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1992, he was a visiting professor at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The same year he also became research group leader at the newly founded MDC, the successor institution of the three former academy institutes in Berlin-Buch. Until his retirement in 2004 he was active in MDC`s medical genome research. From 1998 to 2004, he was a C4 professor of bioinformatics at Humboldt University Berlin.
In 2001 Jens Reich was appointed to the newly founded National Ethics Council and reappointed in 2005, this time as vice chairman. In 2008, he was appointed to the German Ethics Council, the successor organization of the National Ethics Council.
Even after his retirement, Professor Reich has continued to be active in research. Using genome database searches and analysis he is seeking to identify genes that are important for cholesterol metabolism. Furthermore, he coordinates a research network project at MDC together with a research group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg and the University of Heidelberg
Jens Reich has received numerous honors and awards. In 1991, he received the Theodor Heuss Medal, in 1993 the Anna Krüger Prize - awarded for the first time - with which he was honored for his good and understandable scholarly language. In 1996, he was awarded the Lorenz Oken Medal of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte (Association of German Natural Scientists and Medical Doctors) for his "outstanding and manifold contributions, both orally and written, to developments in gene research". In 1998, he received the Urania Medal of the Berlin Urania society, which is dedicated to scientific education. In 2000, he was awarded the National Prize of the German National Foundation.
Professor Reich has over 70 scientific publications to his credit and has also written numerous essays on gene research for the general press. Moreover, he is the author of many books, including "Rückkehr nach Europa" [Return to Europe] (1991), "Abschied von den Lebenslügen" [Farewell to the Life-Lies] (1992) and "Es wird ein Mensch gemacht - Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Gentechnik" [A Human Being Is Made - Possibilities and Limitations of Gene Technology] (2003).
The award presented to him in Halle is named after the physicist, philosopher and peace researcher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (1912 - 2007). In the future the award will be given every two years.Barbara Bachtler
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