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The Otto Warburg Medal 2021 goes to Petra Schwille

Otto Warburg laureate Petra Schwille

The German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) and Elsevier/BBA honor Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille for her outstanding work in the field of cellular and molecular biophysics.

Today, the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) and its cooperation partners, Elsevier and Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA), are presenting the Otto Warburg Medal to Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille. The director of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry receives the prize of 25,000 euros in recognition of her pioneering work in the field of reconstructing cellular processes in simplified functional systems.

"With her findings, Prof. Schwille contributes to identifying and understanding the physicochemical prerequisites for the emergence of cellular life," states Prof. Dr. Blanche Schwappach-Pignataro, President of the GBM. "We are very pleased to award Prof. Schwille, such an important scientist, with the Otto Warburg Medal 2021."

Otto Warburg laureate Petra Schwille

In the Department "Cellular and Molecular Biophysics" at the MPI of Biochemistry, Prof. Petra Schwille and her team try to understand the fundamental characteristics of life by (re)constructing cellular processes and ultimately minimal living cells from drastically simplified functional subsystems such as proteins and protein assemblies. This approach can provide insights into the emergence of complexity as a driver of biological evolution and, ideally, identify the physicochemical prerequisites for the formation of cellular life.

"We look back with pride on our 10-year partnership with GBM, which enables us to recognize outstanding research in the life sciences," says Petra Ullrich, Marketing Director Europe at Elsevier. "I am immensely pleased to honor a scientist who helps us understand the fundamental features of life and who is also an inspiration and role model for many young researchers."

The Otto Warburg Medal has been awarded since 1963 and is considered the most prestigious German award in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology. Previous winners include leading international scientists such as Nobel Laureate Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier (2016), Nobel Laureate Prof. Randy Schekman (2013), Prof. Marina Rodnina (2019), Prof. Patrick Cramer (2020) and most recently Prof. Stefanie Dimmeler (2022). Since 2012, the information analytics company Elsevier and the scientific journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) have been exclusive cooperation partners of the Otto Warburg Medal as well as sponsors of the award.


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awarding of the Otto Warburg Medal 2021 was postponed and takes place during the GBM Fall Conference 2022 "Molecular Basis of Life" in Düsseldorf. Prof. Schwille receives the medal personally.

Media contacts:
Dr. Anke Lischeid
Managing Director, GBM
+49 69 660567-12

Hannah Minnis
APCO Worldwide
+49 173 4839629

Photographs: Sonja Taut/MPI für Biochemie

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