Nikolaus Rajewsky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nikolaus Rajewsky
Nikolaus Rajewsky speaking at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) / European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB) in Basel, 2019
Born1968 (age 54–55)
Alma materFolkwang University of the Arts
University of Cologne (PhD)
AwardsEMBO Membership (2010)
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (2012)
Scientific career
FieldsSystems biology
Developmental biology
Gene regulation
InstitutionsMax Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine
Rutgers University
Rockefeller University
New York University
ThesisExact results for one-dimensional stochastic processes (1997)

Nikolaus Rajewsky (born 1968) is a German system biologist at the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and at the Charité in Berlin.[1] He founded and directs the “Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology” (BIMSB, Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine).[2] He leads the Rajewsky lab, where he studies how RNA regulates gene expression. He also co-chairs LifeTime, a pan-European research initiative of more than 90 academic institutions and 70 companies, which aims to revolutionize healthcare by mapping, understanding, and targeting cells during disease progression. LifeTime integrates several technologies: single-cell multiomics, machine learning, and personalized disease models such as organoids. Rajewsky has received numerous awards and honors, including the most prestigious German award, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, endowed with 2.5 million euros by the German Research Foundation (DFG).[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Nikolaus Rajewsky is the son of the Immunologist Klaus Rajewsky and the political scientist Christiane Rajewsky. He was born in Cologne. Between 1988 and 1993 he studied mathematics and physics at the University of Cologne and received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1997 with his thesis Exact results for one-dimensional stochastic processes.[4]

From 1991 to 1996, Rajewsky studied piano at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen and completed his studies with the artistic diploma (künstlerische Reifeprüfung).

Career and research[edit]

Starting 1998, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow for mathematical statistical physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey and then, from 1999 to 2001, on computational biology at the Rockefeller University in New York City where he became a research professor in 2002. In 2003, he became an assistant professor at New York University (tenure track, Department of Biology and Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences). In 2006, Rajewsky returned to Germany, where he became a full professor at the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch and at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.[5]

In 2008, Nikolaus Rajewsky founded the “Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology” (BIMSB). The mission of BIMSB is to directly integrate different levels of gene regulation to better understand how genotypes translate into phenotypes. This is achieved by promoting a highly collaborative environment and the synergistic application of computational and experimental methods.[6] More recently, BIMSB engages in applying novel methods to disease progressions to find points where cells deviate from health. By understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying these deviations, new therapeutic targets can be identified. BIMSB integrates experimental and computational methods.[7] BIMSB received initial funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Berlin Senate as a pilot project. After a successful evaluation by the BMBF, it secured permanent funding of about 18 Million Euros per year.[8] Since its beginning, BIMSB is headed by Nikolaus Rajewsky. The Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU) included BIMSB in their (successful) application for the Excellence Initiative[9] and provided the real estate on the new HU life science Campus in Berlin-Mitte. This neighbourhood is important for the BIMSB scientific mission and promotes collaborations between the HU, the Charité and the MDC. The BMBF provided additional money for the new building (33.5 million euros). Altogether, 21 group leaders have been recruited to BIMSB; currently 16 are there. In spring 2019 the labs moved from the Campus in Buch into the new building in Mitte.[10] This building is designed to optimize communication between labs and the interaction between computation and experiments.[11] On 26 February 2019 it was formally opened by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel[12] who referred to BIMSB as a “beautiful gem” of the MDC.[13]

Rajewsky's research focuses on understanding the role of RNA in gene regulation. He made fundamental contributions to understanding the function of microRNAs (miRNAs) and the mechanisms by which miRNAs exert function in animal cells. More recently, his lab published highly cited papers about circular RNAs (circRNAs).[14] Very recently, the Rajewsky lab used single-cell methods to molecularly reconstruct animal tissues in space and time, including the lineage tree for an entire animal. His contributions were featured in the journal “Science” as part of the “Breakthrough of the year 2018”.[15]

Since 2017, Nikolaus Rajewsky chairs a pan-European consortium that is now called “LifeTime”,[7] co-chaired by Geneviève Almouzni from the Institute Curie. LifeTime's mission is to revolutionize healthcare by mapping, understanding, and targeting cells during disease progression.[16] To accomplish this goal, LifeTime will integrate and apply single-cell multiomics, machine learning, and personalized disease models such as organoids. LifeTime is the shared vision of leading scientists from around 90 renowned organizations across Europe (17 Partners and 70 Associated Partners). LifeTime partners are supported by more than 70 companies across different sectors as well as other research institutions, national research funding agencies, research ministries, the EU Life Alliance and national science academies: the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), the French Academy of Sciences, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society. The Science and Technology Advisory Board of LifeTime comprises internationally renowned scientists and industry leaders (including 3 Nobel laureates). In June 2020, under Rajewsky's coordination, LifeTime released the LifeTime Strategic Research Agenda which presents a detailed roadmap of how to leverage the latest scientific breakthroughs and technologies over the next decade, to track, understand and treat human cells throughout an individual's lifetime. In August 2020, the journal Nature published the Perspective article “LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine” where scientists explain how these technologies should be rapidly co-developed, transitioned into clinical settings and applied to the five major disease areas (neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer).

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2008 Anniversary Price of the German Society for Biochemistry, awarded by FEBS
  • 2008 First prize from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gentherapie for the best paper
  • 2008 For several years: Global Distinguished Professor of Biology at New York University, USA
  • 2008 IUBMB - Medal for outstanding contributions
  • 2009 Berlin Science Award (presented by the Governing Mayor of Berlin)
  • 2010 Elected Member of European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)[17]
  • 2010 Elected Member of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • 2010 Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the MRC Institute "London Clinical Sciences"
  • 2011–2017 Member of the Advisory Board of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
  • 2012 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the German Research Foundation (DFG, 2.5 Million Euros; this is Germany's most prestigious research award)[18]
  • 2014 Honorary PhD in Human Biology and Medical Genetics by Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
  • 2016 Visiting Professor for research activities at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy (1 month)
  • 2017 Visiting Professor for research activities at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy (1 month)
  • 2019 Elected member of the Leopoldina (Academy of Sciences Germany)


As of January 2021 Google Scholar reports >50,000 citations for Nikolaus Rajewsky, with a h-index of 74 and an i10-index of 120.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Nikolaus Rajewsky publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ "Medical Systems Biology | MDC Berlin". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky of the MDC Honored with Leibniz Prize | MDC Berlin". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Berliner Wissenschaftspreis des Regierenden Bürgermeisters 2009 geht an Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Rajewsky, der Nachwuchspreis an Frau Dr. Vera Beyer". (in German). 5 December 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Prof. Nikolaus Rajewsky von New York nach Berlin ans MDC und die Charité berufen". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  6. ^ Germany, Süddeutsche de GmbH, Munich; Zinkant, Kathrin (18 February 2018). "Newtons Erbe". Sü (in German). Retrieved 20 August 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b Community, Nature Research Bioengineering (8 April 2019). "The Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology". Nature Research Bioengineering Community. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  8. ^ "BIMSB construction site handed over | MDC Berlin". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Bildung durch Wissenschaft - Zukunftskonzept der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin". Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Wissenschaft im Centrum: Angela Merkel eröffnet neues Forschungsgebäude des MDC | MDC Berlin". 22 February 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Science in the center | MDC Berlin". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Bundeskanzlerin | Aktuelles | Forschen für ein gesundes Leben". 26 February 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Bundeskanzlerin | Aktuelles | Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel bei der Eröffnung des Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology am 26. Februar 2019 in Berlin". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  14. ^ Rajewsky, Nikolaus; Chekulaeva, Marina (1 June 2019). "Roles of Long Noncoding RNAs and Circular RNAs in Translation". Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 11 (6): a032680. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a032680. ISSN 1943-0264. PMC 6546045. PMID 30082465.
  15. ^ You, Jia. "Science's 2018 Breakthrough of the Year: tracking development cell by cell". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  16. ^ "How single cell-genomics could transform medicine".
  17. ^ "Find people in the EMBO Communities".
  18. ^ "Prof. Nikolaus Rajewsky erhält Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preis". Management-Krankenhaus (in German). 23 May 2022. Retrieved 23 May 2022.

External links[edit]