Winner of Leibinger Research Prize announced

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Professor Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, a researcher in molecular imaging and single-molecule dynamics at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, has been selected to receive the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis for his research in applied laser technology.

Professor Xie is one of the founding fathers of single-molecule biophysical chemistry, specifically single-molecule enzymology. For his valuable contributions to high-resolution optical imaging techniques, Xie has been selected to receive the award.

The prize will be presented to Xie by jury member Professor Theodor Hänsch at an award ceremony in Ditzingen, Germany on 15 September 2008. Worth €20,000, the prize is being awarded for the second time. The first recipient was Professor Jeffrey H. Kimble of Caltech, in 2006, for his work on cavity quantum electrodynamics.

A recent success of the Xie group at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology is a real-time molecule-by-molecule movie of protein production in live cells. The direct observation of single fluorescent molecules in single cells is of great importance in probing gene expression. This generation of proteins according to the genetic codes in DNA is a core process of live regulation in cells. A better understanding of this process will enable scientists to develop new strategies to fight against many diseases. Xie is also well known for his development work on CARS (Coherent anti-Stokes Raman Scattering) microscopy.

Due to his relentless efforts, CARS microscopy has become one of the most important developments in light microscopy. Xie not only first recognised the full potential of CARS in biological imaging, but eliminated most of its technical challenges as well. Unlike fluorescence microscopy, CARS can be used when the observed material cannot be tagged with or is intolerant of fluorescent markers. Xie’s team has demonstrated the use of CARS microscopy to identify tumours and monitor metabolism.

The Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis is an international research prize awarded biennially by the German non-profit foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung. Together with the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis awarded biennially since the year 2000, these prizes support research and innovations on laser sources and the applications of laser light. An international jury of laser experts, medical doctors and former business executives selects the prize winners.