The German Research Foundation (DFG), known for giving away as prize the world’s largest cash award (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize) in the amount of 2.5 million euros for scientific research, has picked Ivan Dikic, a Croatian scientist for the year 2013. His pioneering work has been in discovering the function of the ubiquitin complex, also known by the name ‘kiss of death’. Ubiquitin complex is a protein that is found in substantial amounts in all the cells of the body. Ubiquitin helps to mark off other proteins that are required to be destroyed and removed for the upkeep of the health of the cell.
The announcement made in December 2012 stated that Croatian Scientist and member of the VERN Advisory Council, Professor Ivan Dikic has been selected to receive the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz cash award (Science) for the year 2013. The prize ceremony is due to take place in Berlin on March 19, 2013.
About Dr. Ivan Dikic and His Work
Professor Dr. Ivan Dikic, aged 46, faculty at Department of Biochemistry/Cellular Biology of theUniversity of Frankfurt is among the world’s leading research scientists for a number of years in the area of cellular signaling and molecular oncology. His area of focus has been the ubiquitin signal molecule, which plays a very important role in the destruction of certain cell proteins that are no longer necessary. Dikic’s persistent research in the field helped him discover the ubiquitin receptor called RPn13 and its detailed structure and function. His pioneering research and related work in the field of ubiquitin binding domains has helped the scientific community to understand many of the fundamental cellular processes such as repair of DNA, inherited immunity, and the process of selective autophagocytosis. He was the first to describe the latter process. These scientific contributions of Dr. Ivan are of immense importance in the field of medicine. The defects that occur during the breakdown of proteins (proteolysis) are known to play a role in causing a wide variety of illnesses.
Ivan Dikic, a Croatian citizen, completed his studies in medicine in Zagreb and carried out further postdoctoral research at University of New York and Uppsala in Sweden. He worked to become a professor in biochemistry at the Goethe University in Frankfurt in the year 2002. From the year 2009, he has been functioning as the director of Buchmann Molecular Life Sciences Institute andInstitute of Biochemistry II. As a member of the of the National Academy of Sciences of Germany (Leopoldina), he has received many an award that include the German Cancer Prize and is a recipient of an advanced grant from European Research Council for his path-breaking research.
The second prestigious award that Dr. Ivan Dikic has been selected for in 2013 is the Ernst Jung Prize. The announcement came in January this year. His pioneering research work in the understanding the part of ubiquitin in regulation of cellular signals has won him the award. The prize money is 150,000 euros and the award is to be presented at a function on May 3 at Hamburg.
The small protein ubiquitin, called ‘kiss of death’, is found in large amounts in all cells. It was so named because of its ability to mark off proteins that had to be degraded. However, today, the role of ubiquitin has been found to be more complex. Thanks to Dr. Ivan Dikic, his research has helped to unravel many specific mechanisms of this regulator complex that is present in all the cells.
Ubiquitin acts in several ways by attaching itself to other proteins and creating an unlimited number of structures in the process. Ivan Dikic was among a few researchers who proved that these modifications were in fact codes that were recognized by specific domains in other protein molecules. This helped to bring interacting partners together inside a cell. His research in deciphering the code helped to unravel the capabilities and distinctly mark the role of the small regulator complex in cells that were healthy as well as in diseases such as cancer, infections due to disorders of the immune system, and the massive potential for therapeutic intervention.
The Jung Foundation for Research and Science has been awarding the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine since the year 1976 for achievements in science that positively impact treatment options and have therapeutic relevance. The Jung Foundation was funded by the Hamburg merchant Ernst Jung who was immensely interested in progress of medicine as well as biomedical research that benefited patients. This year’s prize is also shared by Professor Angelika Amon, Cambridge, USA, (along with Dr. Ivan Dikic ) for her outstanding research work on the control of segregation of chromosomes.
Dr. Dikic feels honored to receive this prestigious award and said that he was always interested in linking medicine and natural sciences to better understand diseases at the molecular levels. He believes that this interdisciplinary connection is required for the progress of medicine. He claimed that he felt privileged to be able to contribute to the field of medical progress and was thankful to his scientific research colleagues, friends and mentors who have shared this journey with him.