International Ellis Island Medal of Honor 2015
Bert Sakmann recognized for his excelling contributions to global neuroscience research
Bert Sakmann, Nobel laureate and emeritus director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, was among the outstanding awardees of the 2015 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. This medal is bestowed once a year by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) to American citizens whose professional, personal or philanthropic contributions benefit our global community. Bert Sakmann was recognized by NECO for his scientific work and excelling contributions to global neuroscience research.
Bert Sakmann and his team work on reconstructing a three-dimensional map of the brain system responsible for touch sensation and motor responses – with all its nerve cells and their connections. An ambitious project, since a single cubic millimeter of the brain's cortex already contains many thousand nerve cells and millions of connections. However, difficult tasks are one of Sakmann's specialties. Together with his colleague, Erwin Neher, the medical doctor and neurophysiologist Bert Sakmann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1991. Their groundbreaking discovery of single ion channels in cells enabled the invention of the patch-clamp technique. This technical achievement made it possible to investigate membrane physiology and enabled the development of new therapeutics targeting ion channels. The foundation laid by Bert Sakmann's and Erwin Neher's discovery revolutionized biomedical research. It comes to no surprise that Bert Sakmann is now also not deterred by the task such as mapping the brain's connections.
Regarding the person
Bert Sakmann was born in 1942 in Stuttgart, Germany. He studied medicine at the Universities of Tübingen, Freiburg, Berlin and Paris and finished his state examination at the University Hospital of the University of Munich (LMU). Afterwards, he worked for three years at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich before he moved to the University College London. Between 1974 and 1988, Bert Sakmann worked at the Max Planck Institute of biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. For his research during this time, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1991, together with his colleague Erwin Neher. In 1989, Bert Sakmann became director at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. Being retired, the scientist came back to the Munich area in 2008, where he leads since then an emeritus group at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. The group works in close cooperation with Sakmann's groups at the Technical University Munich (TUM) and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFl) in Jupiter. He was 2009-2011 the Inaugural Scientific Director of this Institute, which since then is under the leadership of David Fitzpatrick.