Klaus Rajewsky named honorary member of the German Society for Immunology

The MDC immunologist Professor Klaus Rajewsky has been awarded honorary membership in the German Society for Immunology (DGfI) in recognition of his outstanding achievements in immune system research. The honor was bestowed on him in Erlangen during the DGfI’s 47th annual meeting.

Klaus Rajewsky contributed to the fundamental understanding of the immune system, thereby ushering in a new era of biomedical research. His work has opened the door to new treatment options for a host of diseases.

Along with Prof. Klaus Rajewsky, Prof. Reinhold E. Schmidt (Hanover) was also awarded honorary membership in the DGfI. The two immunologists were presented the certificate of honorary membership by DGfI President Prof. Michael Lohoff.

from left: Prof. Michael Lohoff (President of the DGfI), Prof. Carsten Watzl (General Secretary of the DGfI), Prof. Klaus Rajewsky and Prof. Jürgen Wienands (2. Vice President of the DGfI). Image: J. Hirscher

Klaus Rajewsky

Born in Frankfurt am Main in 1936, Rajewsky studied medicine and chemistry in Frankfurt and Munich before completing his medical dissertation at the Institute of Chemistry of the University of Frankfurt. After research stays in the laboratories of Grabar, Henning, and Mitchison, he became, in 1970, professor of molecular genetics at the Institute for Genetics of the University of Cologne, a post he held until his retirement in 2011.

From 1996 to 2001, Rajewsky served as director of the Center for Mouse Genetics at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy. He worked from 2001 to 2011 as a professor and principle investigator at the Center for Blood Research at Harvard Medical School. Since 2011, he has served as head of the Immune Regulation and Cancer research team at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Berlin. Rajewsky is also a founding member of the DGfI.

An extraordinary lifetime’s work

The focus of Klaus Rajewsky’s work was and is the development, activation, and differentiation of B lymphocytes. His more than 460 publications testify to an extraordinary lifetime’s work. In earlier studies he demonstrated the existence of the hapten-carrier effect, a milestone in immunology. He then went on to make significant contributions to our knowledge of the role of antibodies as signal receptors for the survival and differentiation of B lymphocytes as well as the key role of micro ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) in the development of immune cells. His research team has also made vital contributions to understanding the genesis of lymphomas. Another outstanding achievement was the discovery that Epstein-Barr viruses immortalize lymphoma cells.

In addition, Klaus Rajewsky developed a vital tool for the genetic analysis of molecular processes in mice: targeted conditional mouse mutagenesis. This made it possible for the first time to investigate the role played by individual genes in the immune system. This technology has fundamentally changed the study of biology and biomedicine with implications far beyond the field of immunology.

Klaus Rajewsky has received numerous honors. He is a member, among others, of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He holds an honorary doctoral degree from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and from many other universities. Rajewsky has received the Avery Landsteiner Award, the Behring-Kitasato Prize, the Robert Koch Prize, the Max Planck Research Award, the Körber European Science Prize, the Behring-Heidelberger Award, the Novartis Prize, the Ernst Schering Prize, the Max Delbrück Medal, and numerous other awards.