"NOMIS is all about enabling outstanding talent to take on high-risk research."
- Georg Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen, NOMIS Founder

2017 NOMIS Distinguished Scientists

NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Awards (NOMIS Awards) are presented to pioneering scientists and scholars who, through their innovative, groundbreaking research, have made a significant contribution to their respective fields and who inspire the world around them. Their bold ideas and unique approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration and apply a broad range of methods, building bridges across the boundaries of disciplines. NOMIS Awards enable these exceptional, established scientists to continue exploring unconventional and uncharted research paths, thereby opening up new research fields and collaborations.

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D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Karl Deisseroth is a 2017 NOMIS Awardee and has been the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (Stanford, US) since 2012. He led the project Discovering the Causal Principles Underlying Brain-Wide Dynamics.

Born in Boston, US, Deisseroth studied biochemical science at Harvard University (Boston) and received a PhD in neuroscience in 1998 and an MD in 2000 from Stanford University. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the McKnight Foundation Scholar Award, the National Academy of Sciences Award and the Breakthrough Prize, the 2017 Fresenius Research Prize (Else Kröner Fresenius Preis für Medizinische Forschung) and the 2018 Kyoto Prize. Deisseroth was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2019.

Deisseroth is widely recognized for developing and implementing an approach to biology called optogenetics, a technique that involves the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels. Among other advances in laboratory neuroscience techniques, his research has led to thousands of major discoveries regarding the causal underpinnings of complex behavior. But while optics-based discovery of causal mechanisms in animals has been successful, little work has succeeded in revealing brain-wide patterns and underlying causal principles in humans. His project, Discovering the Causal Principles Underlying Brain-wide Dynamics, is investigating the causal principles underlying brain-wide dynamics, which will adapt and combine new technologies developed in the Deisseroth lab.

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Director, Department of Evolutionary Genetics

Svante Pääbo is a 2017 NOMIS Awardee and has been director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) since 1997.

Pääbo was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He earned his PhD from Uppsala University, Sweden, in 1986 and did postdoctoral research at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, US. He was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has received numerous other honors and awards, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the Theodor Bücher Medal and the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award. Pääbo became professor of general biology at the University of Munich, Germany, in 1990.

One of the founders of paleogenetics, Pääbo is investigating the factors that set humans apart from other organisms. He determined high-quality genome sequences from Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, enabling him to identify genetic changes in the human genome that all or almost all present-day humans share, and that set humans apart from Neandertals as well as chimpanzees and other apes. These genetic differences constitute an essentially complete “genetic recipe” for being a modern human. His project, A Cell and Molecular Approach to Research into the Biological Basis of the Human Condition, is analyzing these genetic differences and identifying those that have functional consequences — in particular with respect to the cognitive and social abilities that have made possible the development of rapidly changing technology, large societies, art and perhaps modern language. In 2018, Pääbo discovered that interbreeding occurred between Neandertals and Denisovans, an ancient human species. The discovery was made from a fragment of a long bone identified as coming from a 13-year-old girl nicknamed “Denny,” who lived about 90,000 years ago: She was the daughter of a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father.

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D. H. Chen Professor II

Tony Wyss-Coray is a 2017 NOMIS Awardee and has been professor of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University (Stanford, US) since 2011 and the D. H. Chen Professor II at Stanford since 2018. He led the project COVID-19 and the Brain as well as the Brain Rejuvenation Factors from Blood project.

Born in Switzerland, Wyss-Coray received an MS in microbiology in 1989 and a PhD in immunology in 1992 from the University of Bern, Switzerland. He spent his postdoctoral years at the Scripps Research Institute in California and has received numerous honors and awards, including the NIH Pioneer Award and the Zenith Award.

Wyss-Coray is investigating the role of immune responses in brain aging and neurodegeneration, focusing on cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. He has shown that circulatory factors can modulate neurogenesis, neuroimmunity and cognitive function in mice and that blood-derived factors from young mice or humans can rejuvenate the aging mouse brain. He is now trying to understand the molecular basis of this systemic communication with the brain by employing a combination of omics approaches and through the development of bioorthogonal tools for the in vivo labeling of proteins. His NOMIS project, Brain Rejuvenation Factors from Blood, tested the hypothesis that circulatory factors that regulate aging can be identified and used to rejuvenate aged and possibly degenerated brains.