Axel Ullrich was born in Lauban/Schlesien, Germany, in 1943. He studied biochemistry at the University of Tuebingen, and earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Heidelberg University in 1975. He then took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California in San Francisco, before joining Genentech, San Francisco, in 1978. In 1988, he became Director of the Department of Molecular Biology of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry at Martinsride, Germany, and was appointed Administrative Director of the Institute in 1991. He is currently visiting scientist at the Centre of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore and Research Director of the Singapore OncoGenome Project (SOG). Pursuing a remarkable career that bridges academia with the private sector, Professor Ullrich co-founded three biotechnology companies: SUNGEN Inc. (USA), U3 Pharma AG (Germany) and Axxima Pharmaceuticals AG (Germany).
Professor Ulrich’s groundbreaking research in the field of signal transduction helped significantly in elucidating major fundamental molecular mechanisms that govern the physiology of normal cells and allowed insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms of major human diseases such as Diabetes and Cancer. His efforts to translate his basic scientific discoveries into medical applications led to the development of Humulin (Human Insulin for the treatment of Diabetes), the first therapeutic agent to be developed through gene-based technology, as well as Herceptin, the first target-directed, gene-based cancer therapy for the treatment of metastatic breast carcinoma and SU11248 (Pfizer) a multi-targeted drug for the treatment of GIST and Renal Cell Carcinoma. His scientific work is published in more than 450 articles in international journals, and with over 58000 citations he is one of the ten most cited scientists over the past 25 years worldwide.
In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, Professor Ulrich received numerous awards including: Paul Langerhans Medal of the German Diabetes Society, Berthold Medal of the German Society for Endocrinology, the Antoine Lacassagne Prize of the Cancer Society of France, Gold Medal of the Lorenzini Medical Science Foundation of Italy, German Cancer Research Prize, Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award of the American Association of Cancer Research, Robert Koch Prize, Robert Virchow Medal of the University of Würzburg, Germany, Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Wolf Prize for Medicine. He is an Honorary Professor at the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai (China) and the University of Tuebingen, and elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and
the German Academy of Natural Scientists “Leopoldina.” In 2001, he was named by Time Magazine Europe as one of 25 European tech leaders “who are changing how we work, live and play.” He was also named “International Fellow” of the Garvan Institute of Cancer Research in Sydney, Australia, and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also serves in the advisory boards of several internationally renowned institutions in Europe, USA and Asia.
Professor Ullrich, has been awarded the prize, for his outstanding contributions to the study of the molecular biology of breast cancer. Over the last 20 years he and his colleagues have demonstrated the role of tyrosine kinase receptors as growth promoters for cancerous cells. Their discovery of the HER-2 oncogene in 1985 led to the subsequent description of its amplification, in 1990 his description of a monoclonal antibody to the HER-2 receptor led to the development of Herceptin, the first clinically effective monoclonal antibody now in use worldwide. More recently, his research has extended to other areas of receptor target interactions of relevance to angiogenesis.