UZH researcher Martin Jinek wins prestigious Friedrich Miescher Prize

Martin Jinek from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Zurich has won the Friedrich Miescher Prize, which carries CHF 20,000 in prize money. The award is the highest accolade for budding researchers in biochemistry in Switzerland.

The Swiss Society for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences has awarded this year’s Friedrich Miescher Prize to 35-year-old Martin Jinek, a professor from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Zurich, in recognition of his work on the microbial defense system and the genetic engineering tool CRISPR-Cas9. The biochemist from the Czech Republic helped make the protein Cas9 an essential tool in genetic engineering. The molecule serves as a versatile pair of scissors to process the genetic material of animal or plant cells. Cas9 can be used to cut out, add, activate or suppress genes as and when required. The application became a permanent feature in research labs in no time at all.

Jinek studied at Trinity College (Cambridge University) and completed a doctorate in Heidelberg. He moved to the University of Zurich from the University of Berkeley two years ago. “The university’s good reputation and the outstanding research environment were key factors in the move to Switzerland,” says Jinek. Meanwhile, he has already been awarded a prestigious ERC grant worth millions from the European Research Council and won the John Kendrew Prize from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg.

The Friedrich Miescher Prize is Switzerland’s top accolade for outstanding achievements in biochemistry. The prize-winners must be younger than 40, hold Swiss citizenship or have conducted their research in Switzerland. The award, which was launched by the Swiss Society for Biochemistry in 1969 in remembrance of the Basel-born scientist Friedrich Miescher, will be presented to Jinek at an official ceremony on January 30, 2015 as part of the annual LS² – Life Sciences Switzerland meeting at the University of Zurich.