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Deutscher Zukunftspreis award: DPMA President recognises “outstanding innovators”

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, Dr. Özlem Türeci and Prof. Dr. Christoph Huber

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, Dr. Özlem Türeci and Prof. Dr. Christoph Huber

Vaccine against COVID-19, high-tech computed tomography, truck tyres made of dandelion – President of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office: Teams nominated for the Zukunftspreis award offer impressive solutions to urgent problems mankind is confronted with

Press release of 15 September 2021

Munich. The President of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, has recognised the nominees announced today for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award as “outstanding innovators”. “The nominated teams tackle urgent problems mankind is confronted with and offer impressive solutions in their respective fields,” said Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer. “All of the three nominated teams have been pursuing a vision to advance their developments for a long time. Their achievements result from hard work and perseverance.” The DPMA President is a member of the board of trustees, which defines the guidelines for the award.

The nominees for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award – the Federal President’s Award for Innovation in Science and Technology – are:

Prof Ugur Sahin, Dr Özlem Türeci, Prof Christoph Huber and Prof Katalin Kariko of BioNTech SE in Mainz. The research team has developed an effective vaccine against COVID-19, a highly infectious disease, at unprecedented speed, thus providing billions of people all over the world with protection against infection. The main innovation is to use mRNA technology to vaccinate people. Used as a “blueprint” for specific virus proteins, mRNA is delivered into human cells. When the body comes into contact with the virus, the antibodies produced against the virus proteins allow the immune system to fight the virus efficiently. Patents concerning this technology in which at least one of the team members is involved date back to 2008. Since September 2000, more than 1,100 patent applications in 391 patent families have been filed by BioNTech.

Dr Carla Recker of Continental AG in Hannover, Dr Christian Schulze Gronover of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Münster and Prof Dirk Prüfer of the University of Münster have developed an eco-friendly material that replaces natural rubber from the rubber tree in car and bicycle tyres: “Taraxagum”, extracted from Russian dandelion. Rubber trees grow only in a certain equatorial region; this means that the rubber extracted from these trees has to be shipped over considerable distances to the large industrialised countries. In addition, rain forest is cleared for the planting of rubber trees. Both long-distance transports and the clearing of rain forest can be avoided if dandelion rubber is used, as Russian dandelion can also be grown in a temperate climate – e.g. in Germany – and on relatively less fertile soil. As the share of natural rubber in tyres is up to 40%, there is a great potential for environment and climate protection. Continental has filed patent applications for far more than 20 inventions in this regard, including with the DPMA.

Dr Thomas Flohr, Dr Björn Kreisler and Dr Stefan Ulzheimer of Siemens Healthineers AG in Forchheim have enhanced medical imaging with the photon-counting computed tomography. Compared to the currently available apparatuses, the new photon-counting detectors allow images of the body interior – e.g. tissue and bones – to be produced with a significantly higher resolution, so it is easier for physicians to recognise bone metastases. Furthermore, this technology allows a reduction of the radiation dose and less use of contrast agent; this means that the therapy is much more gentle. A number of patent applications filed by Siemens Healthineers AG in this regard in the past 15 years – including several applications filed with the DPMA – identify the nominated researchers as inventors.

Today, the three teams of researchers have presented their developments at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The winners will be selected by the jury on November 17th. The Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will present the 2021 Deutscher Zukunftspreis award in Berlin in the evening on the same day.

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of just under 2,800 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services to inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international IP systems further.

Deutscher Zukunftspreis / Ansgar Pudenz

Last updated: 5 May 2022