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Posted: April 15, 2008
Nomination for Europe's top innovation prize
(Nanowerk News) The European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO) have announced the twelve nominees for the "European Inventor of the Year 2008 "award. The most important European innovation prize will be awarded in four categories. One of the three nominees in the category "lifetime achievement" is the physicist Prof. Stefan W. Hell, director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. The winners will be announced at a gala event of the European Patent Forum 2008. The awards will be presented by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Danilo Türk, and EPO President, Alison Brimelow.
The inventions of the twelve nominated researchers have had a significant impact on our everyday lives and were successfully patented and brought on the market. The four prize categories are industry, small and medium sized industries/research institutes, non-European countries and lifetime achievement. One of the three finalists in the category "lifetime achievement" is Stefan Hell. An independent and high-profile international jury cited him for "overcoming long-established paradigms in optical physics by developing the powerful STED light microscope which facilitates new breakthroughs in medical research". Nominated in this category are also Erik De Clercq (Belgium) for landmark contributions to modern AIDS therapy and Leonardo Chiariglione (Italy) for developing the video compression technology leading to the MPEG format for motion video and audio
With his initially "unusual" ideas, Stefan Hell has changed physics textbook knowledge and dramatically improved light microscopy beyond the accepted limits. With the invention of "STED microscopy", he radically surmounted the 130 years old resolution limit (200 nanometers at the best) in light microscopy. It has been possible to observe many fine details in the inside of a cell with it. Herewith, Stefan Hell has opened up the door to the nanocosmos of a cell. Very small protein complexes of dimension 20 - 50 nanometers - structures that are about 1000 times smaller than a human hair- can now be observed with a STED microscope, well separated from each other.
Not so long ago, Stefan Hell and coworkers 'shot' with the STED microscope the first live video of the inside of a living nerve cell with a resolution of 65 nanometers - something that was unthinkable a few years ago. The scientists could look into the process of signal transmission in a nerve cell in real time. "The detailed observation in the inside of living cells will in the end lead to new knowledge in health care and lead to new therapies and medication," says Hell. Since November 2007, a commercial version of the STED microscope is available from Leica Microsystems. Hell received the Innovation Award of the German Federal President in 2006 for the invention and development of STED microscopy. In 2008, he was awarded the top German research prize - The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize.
About "European Inventor of the Year"
The prize recognises inventors and innovations that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technical development in Europe and beyond and thus have strengthened Europe's economic position. The European Inventor of the Year Award has been jointly instituted by the European Commission and the EPO and is awarded by an independent and high-profile international jury. The winners will be announced on 6 May 2008 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at a gala event of the European Patent Forum 2008. The awards will be presented by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Danilon Türk, and EPO President, Alison Brimelow.
Stefan W. Hell (born in 1962) received his doctorate in physics from the University of Heidelberg in 1990, followed by a research stay at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. From 1993 to 1996, he worked as a senior researcher at the University of Turku, Finland, where he developed the principle of STED microscopy. In 1996, Stefan Hell moved to the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, where he built up his current research group dedicated to sub-diffraction-resolution microscopy. He was appointed a Max Planck director in 2002 and currently leads the Department of NanoBiophotonics there. He is an honorary professor of experimental physics at the University of Göttingen and adjunct professor of physics at the University of Heidelberg. Hell has received several national and international awards, including the Prize of the International Commission for Optics (2000), the Carl Zeiss Research Award (2002), the "Innovation Award of the German Federal President" (2006), the Julius Springer Award for Applied Physics (2007), and the Leibniz Prize (2008).