Prof. Dr. Stefan Pfister, Director of the Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ), Head of Department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Professor at the Heidelberg University Medical Faculty, and pediatric oncologist at Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD), is awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize 2023 of the German Research Foundation - the most prestigious science prize in Germany. He is being honored for his outstanding contributions to the research and development of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for childhood brain tumors.
"We warmly congratulate Stefan Pfister on this outstanding award, which he deserves in the highest degree. With his many years of research at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), he has made a significant contribution to making the diagnosis of children with cancer more precise and also to testing his promising research results clinically, so that young patients receive precisely tailored cancer therapies based on molecular diagnosis," says Prof. Dr. Michael Baumann, Chairman of the Board of the German Cancer Research Center.
The Rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel, commented on the award of the Leibniz Prize: "Stefan Pfister is an outstanding scientist and physician who embodies the close connection between life sciences and medical application. The award is therefore also a testament to the strength of the Health + Life Science Alliance Heidelberg Mannheim, where -- as in Stefan Pfister's research -- medical expertise is brought together with novel molecular biology methods."
"Stefan Pfister has made a significant contribution to combining pioneering research with the best possible medical care in the field of pediatric oncology at Heidelberg University Medical Center. Numerous children affected by cancer and their families in Heidelberg and far beyond will benefit from his commitment today and in the future. We warmly congratulate him on this well-deserved honor," said Professor Hans-Georg Kräusslich, Dean of the Heidelberg Medical Faculty and member of the Board of Management at Heidelberg University Hospital.
Stefan Pfister is regarded as the world's leading specialist in the genetic and epigenetic classification of childhood and adolescent tumors. His award-winning research in pediatric oncology has been published in more than 450 scientific publications and has contributed decisively to improving diagnostics and therapy and thus the life expectancy of young cancer patients. Among other things, he made a decisive contribution to the development of a new classification of brain tumors, which has since been widely adopted in the World Health Organization (WHO) classifications of brain tumors.
Pfister's research is made possible by the excellent interdisciplinary cooperation and support of all the sponsors of the Hopp Children's TCancer Center KiTZ, the DKFZ, Heidelberg University Hospital and the Heidelberg University Medical Faculty. This has made it possible to open up regionally initiated diagnostic and treatment services for children with cancer to young patients throughout Germany and worldwide.
Stefan Pfister received his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Tübingen in 2002 and his clinical training at the University Hospitals of Mannheim and Heidelberg. In his early scientific career, he conducted research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, among others. In the course of his postdoctoral work in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), he specialized in research on brain tumor types in children, for whose treatment there are still hardly any modern cancer drugs and other innovative therapeutic approaches.
With this goal in mind, Pfister also initiated the founding of the Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) in 2016, which for the first time in Germany combines treatment and research on childhood cancer under one roof. Stefan Pfister is one of the three directors of the KiTZ, has headed the Department of Pediatric Neurooncology at the DKFZ since 2012, and is a professor at the Heidelberg Medical Faculty and a pediatric oncologist at Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD). He also takes leading roles in major European research initiatives on children and cancer to provide innovative cancer therapies to children with cancer.
His numerous scientific awards include the German Cancer Award in 2013 and the Léopold Griffuel Award in 2021. In 2020, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and in 2022 as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). For many years in a row, he has been one of the world's most cited researchers (Web of Science Group), and in 2019 he received the coveted European Research Council ERC funding (Consolidator Grant).
The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded annually by the DFG since 1986. Up to ten prizes can be awarded per year, each with a prize sum of 2.5 million euros.