The Robert Koch Postdoctoral Prize in virology is awarded to young scientists who have done outstanding research and made a fundamental contribution to a better understanding of infectious diseases. The prize is awarded annually by the Robert Koch Foundation and the German Society for Virology and includes 5,000 euros. The DVG Award for Young Scientists is awarded in two-year intervals to scientists who have written and published outstanding work in the field of veterinary medicine. It includes a monetary award of 2,500 euros.
Benedikt Kaufer earned his Ph.D. in 2010 from Cornell University in the U.S. and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Virology at Freie Universität Berlin, where he set up the Viral Integration and Tumorigenesis Lab. In 2011 he was appointed a junior professor there with a focus on molecular tumor virology. His main area of research is the decryption of the onset and progression of diseases caused by herpes viruses. In particular, he investigates the mechanisms that allow the herpes virus to remain in the body of the host for life. In his experiments, he used the highly carcinogenic Marek’s disease virus (MDV), which causes severe economic losses in the poultry industry, as a model. Kaufer also works with the varicella zoster virus, the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles, and human herpes viruses 6 and 7, which cause three-day fever in young children.
Kaufer published a series of papers on these topics in several high-ranking journals including PLoS Pathogens, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, and the Annual Review of Virology. He also discovered the mechanism enabling different viruses, such as the human herpes virus 6, to integrate their genetic material into host chromosomes. In cooperation with the U.S. space agency NASA, he developed a system that makes it possible to generate human neural tissue, which can be used to study the latency of the varicella zoster virus.