Prof. Dr. Jiri Friml is to receive the 2010 Körber European Science Award, which is endowed with 750,000 euros, for his groundbreaking discoveries in the field of plant development. Every year, this award honours a European scientist for his or her innovative, forward-looking research project. The awardee is selected by an international Trustee Committee chaired by Prof. Dr. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society. The findings of the molecular biologist and biochemist are considered a milestone in basic biological research.
How does a plant know exactly where it must form leaves, stems and roots? And how does it adapt its growth to changes in environmental conditions? The molecular biologist and biochemist Jiri Friml conducts research into the genetic, molecular and cell biological processes which control the development of plants and has thus provided fundamental food for thought which is by no means restricted to botanical research.
At the centre of Friml’s research is the growth hormone auxin, the distribution of which regulates what is up and what is down in a plant, how much it grows in a particular direction and where individual organs are located. These findings are seen as a milestone in gaining a greater understanding of numerous physiological processes in plants. However, Friml’s insights are also of pre-eminent importance to agronomic and medical research.
Jiri Friml has been a professor at the Department of Plant Systems Biology at the University of Ghent, Belgium since 2007. Born in the Czech Republic in 1973, he went to the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne in 1997 and obtained his doctorate in biology at the University of Cologne in 2000. In 2001, he moved to the University of Tübingen, where he worked as a scientific assistant at the Centre for Plant Molecular Biology. Here he led a research group, gaining a further doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Brno.