The DECHEMA Prize 2008 of the Max Buchner Research Foundation with a value of € 20,000 is conferred on
Professor Dr. rer.nat. Wolfgang Wiechert,University of Siegen / Germany
in recognition of his ground-breaking work on the
modelling of metabolic processes that leads to a quantitatively and
experimentally proven description of biological systems and their industrial
The award will be conferred in the course of a
festive colloquium November 28, 2008, 4 p.m. at the DECHEMA Haus,
Theodor-Heuss-Allee 25, in Frankfurt/Main.
The DECHEMA Prize of the Max Buchner Research Foundation has been conferred annually since 1951
by DECHEMA, Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, for outstanding
research in the fields of applied chemistry, process engineering, biotechnology,
and chemical apparatus. Preference is given to younger scientists whose work is
fundamentally important and successfully combines theory with practical
Photographs from the awards ceremony will be
available from the public relations department of DECHEMA e.V., Tel.: +49
69/7564-375, -296, Fax: +49 69/7564-272,
Measuring cells: On the route to
measuring methods and a mathematical description of observed phenomenons are
currently regarded more as a characteristic trait of physics than of biology.
With the availability of new methods that supply within a short time a large
amount of data on the structure and processes of cells, a mathematical
description of biological systems becomes possible. A new branch of biology –
system biology – aims at illuminating the complex regulatory networks of cells,
at understanding them using system-theoretically, and applying the results in
practice. As the handling of complex systems is a classical domain of
engineers, therefore many system scientists have an engineering background.
Wiechert has been working on the measuring and quantitative description of
biological networks for 15 years. He influenced significantly the development
of a mtehod for the quantification of material flows in living cells. Being a
math graduate, he contributed most notably to the relatively complicated
mathematical theory behind the method. The material flow analyses visualizes
how an individual cell metabolizes the nutrients (mainly glucose) and uses it
for energy generation or the building of the cell mass. It is used today
globally in order to diagnose the impact of genetic changes in the course of
the development of biotechnological production strains. Material flows are
rarely measurable directly; usually, information has to be gathered indirectly
by feeding the cells with 13-marked glucose and observing how the trace substance
is distributed via the metabolic network.
The growth of
cells can be compared to the building of a house, where defined proportions of
different building blocks are required. Thus, the cell has to have a mechanism
that regulates the material supply. If these mechanisms are systematically
disturbed, the cell can be motivated to produce on building block in abundance.
This allows the industrial production of chemical substances by microorganisms.
order to learn more about the regulatory networks of cells, the working group
of Wolfgang Wiechert evaluates pulse experiments. In these experiments, the
nutrient glucose is offered in a sudden burst after a period of starvation.
Cells react to the sudden abundance by rapidly changing material flows that can
be observed using concentration measurements with a high resolution over time.
When these metabolom data were analyzed using mathematical models, conclusions
could be made on the regulatory mechanisms. This approach leads step by step to
a quantitative, maths-based view of the cell. The results can then be used by
engineers as a basis for the development of bio processes.
Professional background of Wolfgang Wiechert
Wolfgang Wiechert (born in 1960) graduated in mathematics
and informatics at the University of Bonn and moved subsequently to the newly
founded Department of Theoretical Biology at the Botanical Institute in order
to apply the methods he had studied in practice. Following postgraduate studies
in biotechnology and biotechnical process engineering, he earned his doctorate
degree with distinction with a dissertation on the analysis of bio process
data. He then moved to the Institute for Biotechnology 2 at Forschungszentrum
Jülich (Jülich Centre of Research). In 1986, he merged his research results on
the basics for the method of metabolic 13C material flow analysis to a
habilitation thesis and was offered the same year the Professorship
for Simulation Technology at the Institute
for Mechanics and Control Engineering of the Department for Mechanical
Engineering at the University of Siegen. 2001 he was awarded the 9th Bellman
Prize of the Journal for Mathematical Biosciences for his development of the
theoretical foundation of the 13c material flow analysis.
2006, he spent six months as a visiting lecturer at the Institute
Computational Science and the Institute for Molecular Systems Biology of the
ETH Zurich. A short while ago, Prof. Wiechert was offered the director’s
position at the Institute for Biotechnology 2 at Forschungszentrum Jülich.
Wolfgang Wiechert is spokesman of the Siegen
Research Centre for Multidisciplinary Analsyis and Applied System Opimitziation
(FOMAAS) that focusses on the computational modeling, analysis, simulation and
optimiziation of complex systems. He is in charge of the Working Group „System
biology and synthetic biology“ of DECHEMA and has been for several years on the
board of the German Simulation Association ASIM, responsible for teaching and