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Taiwan’s highest scientific award goes to Christoph Plass

The Taiwanese National Science Council has presented DKTK scientist Christoph Plass with the Tsungming Tu Award, the highest academic honour for foreign scientists. The award comes with prize money of 75,000 US dollars.

Joint press release by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK)

Christoph Plass | © dkfz.de

Christoph Plass received the award for his achievements in the field of cancer epigenomics. His work focuses on the analysis of abnormal DNA methylation profiles in leukaemia, especially acute myeloid leukaemia and chronic lymphatic leukaemia, and in solid tumours. Christoph Plass is the Coordinator of the Exploitation of Oncogenic Mechanisms Programme within the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK).

Within the DKTK research programme, Plass and his colleagues are researching, among other things, whether and how DNA methylation profiles show changes that are specific to particular types of cancer. By comparing them with the methylation profiles of healthy cells, he and his colleagues have identified genes that are silenced in cancer. The researchers’ aim is to use specific, epigenetic changes as markers for the diagnosis and progress of cancer, so as to predict how effective medicines will be in particular groups of patients.

In 2007, Christoph Plass established the Epigenomics and Cancer Risk Factors Division at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). Previously, from 1997 to 2007, he had conducted research at Ohio State University and he has maintained close collaborative research links with colleagues from Taiwan since that time.

The Tsungming Tu Award dates back to a cooperation agreement signed in 2006 between the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Taiwan’s National Science Council. It is presented to internationally acclaimed scientists for extraordinary achievements and is intended to strengthen German-Taiwanese academic links. Harald zur Hausen was one of the prize-winners in 2011.

The Tsungming Tu Award, which comes with prize money of 75,000 US dollars this year, was presented on 20 April 2016 during an official ceremony in Taipei. A second award was presented to theoretical physicist Eberhard Groß, head of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle/Saale.

The award is named after the physician Tu Tsung Ming, who, in 1922, became the first Taiwanese citizen to earn a doctorate in medicine.