Wednesday - July 3, 2019
Prestigious award from the Bayer Science & Education Foundation:

2019 Hansen Family Award goes to Professor Edith Heard

Professor Edith Heard, Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is awarded for groundbreaking insights into the field of epigenetics and its role in basic medical research
Professor Edith Heard

Leverkusen, July 3, 2019 – The award-winner of the 2019 Hansen Family Award is Professor Edith Heard. The Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation and the Scientific Committee for this award have presented her with one of Germany’s most prestigious scientific accolades including a prize money of EUR 75,000. The award is in recognition for Heard’s groundbreaking insights and paradigm shifting discoveries in the area of epigenetics. The award will be officially presented by Bayer CEO Werner Baumann at a ceremony in Leverkusen on October 28, 2019.

The Hansen Family Award honors scientists who have conducted pioneering research in innovative areas of biology and medicine. It has been presented since 2000 in memory of its endower, the late Professor Kurt Hansen. The former Bayer AG Board of Management and Supervisory Board Chairman established the award in 1999, “in gratitude for a fulfilling life as a natural scientist and businessman.”

Professor Edith Heard receives this prestigious award for her pioneering work in revealing the molecular mechanism of X-chromosome inactivation (XCI). In this fascinating process, one of the two copies of the X-chromosome is inactivated in some female mammals – including humans! Moreover, she co-discovered the topologically associating domains (TADs), which are units of chromosome organization in the cell nucleus. Understanding the interplay between chromatin structure and gene activity is essential for the development of new drugs aimed at treating cancer and other diseases.

Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, said: “Most biological phenomena, including pathogenic ones, like the many manifestations of cancer, are regulated both by their underlying genetics and epigenetics. With her fundamental work on X-chromosome inactivation in mammals, Prof. Heard has made major contributions to the foundations of epigenetics thereby opening potentially novel routes to the treatment of complex diseases. Thus, Edith Heard is regarded as one of the world leaders in this rapidly advancing and important field.”

In addition, Kemal Malik, member of the Bayer Board of Management for Innovation and Chairman of the foundation added: “As an innovation driven company, Bayer’s mission statement of “Science for a Better Life” demonstrates our belief that the future of society will be shaped by advances in basic and applied research. The knowledge and understanding of future technologies in the life sciences are key elements of this and Bayer wishes to contribute through its foundations and by awarding this prize.”

The prize is awarded by the Bayer Science & Education Foundation. The primary objectives of the foundation are the recognition of outstanding research achievements, the promotion of talented scientists and support for important school science projects. In terms of content, the sponsorship activities focus on natural science and medicine. The foundation honors outstanding research achievements every two years with the Hansen Family Award and in alternate years with the Otto Bayer Award, each of which carries a cash award of EUR 75,000. The program is rounded off by two prizes for up-and-coming researchers: The international Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award is presented annually in the categories biology, chemistry and medical science, each with prize money of EUR 10,000, while the Bayer Thrombosis Research Award, which supports scientists in the German-speaking region whose work focuses on basic and clinical research into thrombosis, is presented every two years and has prize money of EUR 30,000.

Professor Edith Heard was born in London. She was introduced to biology while taking the Natural Sciences Tripos for her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the 1980’s. Inspired by her teachers at the time, she switched her focus from physics to biology and graduated in Genetics. Edith then went on to obtain her PhD from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (later Cancer Research UK) at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in London. Thereafter, she spent nine years at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a permanent researcher, before undertaking a one-year sabbatical at Cold Spring Harbor in the USA. In 2001, she set up her own group at the Institut Curie and in 2010 became Director of the Institute’s Genetics and Developmental Biology Unit. Edith was appointed as a Professor of the Collège de France in 2012, holding the Chair of Epigenetics and Cellular Memory. As part of her professorship, Edith continues to give an annual series of public lectures at the Collège de France, choosing a different scientific theme each year. She is also co-chair of the French national programme PAUSE which helps to temporarily host scientists living in geopolitical crisis zones. In January 2019, Edith started as Director General of EMBL.

About EMBL
EMBL is Europe’s leading laboratory for the life sciences. We are an intergovernmental organisation established in 1974 and are supported by over 20 member states. EMBL performs fundamental research in molecular biology, studying the story of life. We offer services to the scientific community, train the next generation of scientists, and strive to integrate the life sciences across Europe. We are international, innovative, and interdisciplinary. We are more than 1700 people, from over 80 countries, operating across six sites in Barcelona (Spain), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Heidelberg (Germany), Hinxton (UK), and Rome (Italy). Our scientists work in independent groups and conduct research and offer services in all areas of molecular biology. Our research drives the development of new technology and methods in the life sciences. We work to transfer this knowledge for the benefit of society.

About Bayer
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of health care and nutrition. Its products and services are designed to benefit people by supporting efforts to overcome the major challenges presented by a growing and aging global population. At the same time, the Group aims to increase its earning power and create value through innovation and growth. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development, and the Bayer brand stands for trust, reliability and quality throughout the world. In fiscal 2018, the Group employed around 117,000 people and had sales of 39.6 billion euros. Capital expenditures amounted to 2.6 billion euros, R&D expenses to 5.2 billion euros. For more information, go to

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