Dirk Heinz new Scientific Director of HZI

Successor of Jürgen Wehland now officially confirmed.

Portrait des Wissenschaftlichen Geschäftsführers des Helmholtz-Zentrums für Infektionsforschung Prof. Dr. Dirk HeinzScientific director of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research Prof. Dr. Dirk HeinzThe Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany, has a new Scientific Director. The German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has appointed the structural biologist Prof. Dirk Heinz with effect from August 1 as successor of Prof. Jürgen Wehland who passed away a year ago. Heinz has been acting Scientific Director since September 2010. His future plans include the expansion of cooperations with academic partners and industry to establish a better link between basic research and clinical application.


Dirk Heinz studied chemistry and biochemistry in Freiburg before specializing in structural biology during his PhD at the University of Basel. After a research stay in the US he returned to Freiburg. In 1998 he changed to the German Research Centre for Biotechnology, which is now the HZI. Since 2003 he was head of the department and division of structural biology at the HZI. Dirk Heinz is member of numerous scientific organisations, including the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). Furthermore he holds positions in several scientific professional societies.


Heinz sees the great challenges of the future in "translation" – the effective bridging between scientific findings and clinical medicine – as well as in the expansion of interdisciplinary and transregional alliances in infection research. This includes the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), a network of outstanding research institutions initiated by the BMBF. The DZIF has been established to bundle scientific expertise in infections and to promote the implementation of concepts for the development of new therapies. "The HZI as one of selected institutions will play an important role within the DZIF," says Heinz. "We want to fulfil this mission and thus contribute to the solution of urgent medical problems."


One of Prof. Heinz' high priority goals is the establishment of a combined centre for Drug Research and Functional Genomics on the HZI campus. There, natural compounds shall be investigated and examined that may help in fighting infections. Another focus will be the role of the genes during infections, with a focus on human genes as well as the genes of the numerous pathogens.


"Dirk Heinz is renowned as an analytically thinking scientist and a dedicated, energetic leader," says Ulf Richter, Administrative Director of the HZI. "I am convinced that he will lead the Centre successfully focusing on infection research and I am looking forward to working with him."

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