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Home > Laureates > Dirk GÖRLICH
2022 WLA Prize Laureates
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“For key discoveries elucidating the mechanism and selectivity of protein transport between the cytoplasm and nucleus.”
The 2022 WLA Prize Laureate in Life Science or Medicine
Scientific member and Director,
Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences
About the Laureate

Dr. Dirk Görlich was born in Halle/Saale in Germany and studied biochemistry at the Martin Luther University in Halle. For his PhD, he joined Tom Rapoport's lab in Berlin, where he identified the heterotrimeric Sec61αβγ complex as a receptor for translating ribosomes and protein-conducting channel of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). He also succeeded in reconstituting a fully functional "translocon" from purified components and demonstrated its capacity to transport secretory proteins across the ER membrane and to integrate type I and type II membrane proteins into the lipid bilayer.

In 1993, Dr. Görlich joined Ron. Laskey's lab at the University of Cambridge, where he discovered the first importins as mediators of protein import into the cell nucleus.

In 1996, he became an independent group leader and later a professor of molecular biology at the ZMBH (University of Heidelberg). During this time, he developed the RanGTP-gradient model to explain the directionality and energetics of nuclear transport. His group first described chaperone functions of importins and was instrumental in discovering and characterising exportins that mediate export from the cell nucleus.

Dr. Görlich is now a director at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen, focusing on the question of how nuclear pore complexes function as highly efficient transport machines. His team discovered that intrinsically disordered FG domains assemble into a condensed (selective) FG phase that serves as a highly selective permeability barrier of extreme transport capacity. His group also develops nanobodies as cell biological tools and, more recently, also as therapeutics for treating diseases such as Covid-19, malaria, bacterial infections, sepsis, and autoimmune conditions.


1989, Master’s Degree in Biochemistry, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (Halle/Saale)

1990-1993, Graduate studies in T.A. Rapoport`s lab (Max Delbrück Center, Berlin)

1993, PhD from Humboldt University Berlin

Professional Experience

Apr. - Sept. 1993, Postdoctoral studies in T.A. Rapoport`s lab

Oct. 1993 - Dec. 1995, Postdoctoral research fellow in R.A. Laskey`s lab, Wellcome / CRC Institute, University of Cambridge

1996-2007, Research group leader at the Center for Molecular Biology at the University of Heidelberg (ZMBH)

2001-2007, Professor of Molecular Biology, University of Heidelberg

2005-present, Scientific Member and Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry

2018-2019, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry

*On January 1, 2022, the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences was founded, merging two Göttingen institutes, the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry and the MPI for Experimental Medicine. Dr. Görlich has been a director at the Institute.

Major Awards and Honors

1993, Karl Lohmann Prize (Karl-Lohmann-Preis, German Society for Biological Chemistry)

1994, Falcon Prize (Falcon-Preis, German Society for Cell Biology)

1997, EMBO Gold Medal (European Molecular Biology Organization)

1997, Elected member of EMBO

1997, Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize (Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Preis, German Research Foundation)

2001, Alfried Krupp Sponsorship Award(Alfried Krupp Förderpreis, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation)

2005, Elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

2018, Animal Welfare Research Prize (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture) together with Tino Pleiner

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