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Professor Karen Nelson Receives Helmholtz International Fellow Award

On June 27, 2016 the microbiologist Professor Karen Nelson was conferred this year‘s Helmholtz International Fellow Award. The award is endowed with 20,000 Euros and is connected with an invitation to flexible research stays at one or more Helmholtz Centers.

Prof. Dr. Karen Nelson, PD Dr. Christian Langebartels (Helmholtz Zentrum München, Research Director). Photo: HMGU

The Helmholtz Association aims to intensify existing cooperation with internationally renowned scientists. To this end, the Helmholtz International Fellow Award was established. Helmholtz Zentrum München had nominated Professor Karen Nelson, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute.

Nelson is one of the leaders in the field of microbiome research. Her research field includes the area of health but also environmental research – both of which are the two focus areas of the Center.

Already during her PhD work (1992-1996), Nelson was involved in genome sequencing, among others of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that is considered to be a trigger for gastric ulcers. In the course of her career she has worked on the sequencing of other genomes, such as the genome of the radiation resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans or the pathogenic Streptococcus pneumoniae. Her main achievement, however, was the assessment of important components of the human microbiome and to unreval major functional traits, which induce derivation of data sets. To date, Nelson‘s publications have been cited more than 20,000 times.

Her scientific achievements, for which Nelson has received numerous honors and prizes, include more than 150 publications as well as books and the development of patents. In 2013, together with colleagues, she founded the company ‘Human Longevity Inc.’, which links genomic and clinical data to further the goal of personalized medicine. Here she now heads the microbiome working group.

The award will enable an even closer, long-term cooperation between Karen Nelson and Helmholtz Zentrum München, in particular the Research Unit Environmental Genomics (headed by Professor Michael Schloter) and the Institute of Epidemiology (headed by Professor Annette Peters) in important areas of microbiome research. 

Further information 

The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich and has about 2,300 staff members. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.