Professor Dr. Paul Bieniasz received the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievements in Virology 2024


The Chica and Heinz Schaller Award for Distinguished Achievements in Virology 2024 was awarded to Professor Paul Bieniasz. From left to right: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ralf Bartenschlager (Chairperson of the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation), Prof. Dr. Paul Bieniasz (Awardee), Prof. Dr. Isabella Eckerle (Laudator), Prof. Dr. Ulf Dittmer (President of the Society for Virology (GfV)). Picture © Prof. Dr. Volker Lohmann.

The prestigious 2024 Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievements in Virology was presented on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Virology in Vienna. The award is given only every two years and recognizes the outstanding achievements of an individual in basic or translational virology, ideally in both areas, at the national and international levels. This year, the prize, which is endowed with 50,000 Euros, was awarded to Professor Dr. Paul Bieniasz (Rockefeller University, NY, USA) in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of virology and his restless commitment to support young scientists in virology and beyond.

Professor Bieniasz started his academic career at the University of Bath, UK. He began to study retroviruses during his doctoral thesis at the Imperial College, University of London, which was further deepened by his postdoctoral time at Duke University, starting to focus on HIV-1. In 1999, he founded his own laboratory at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and Rockefeller University, to study the replication of retroviruses. In 2010, Professor Bieniasz became full professor at the Rockefeller University, and since 2022, he holds the Purnell W. Choppin Professorship.

Over the course of his career, Professor Bieniasz has made groundbreaking discoveries in various areas of virology, reflected in more than 170 publications. His research on HIV-1 entry, transcription, and assembly has significantly improved our understanding of the replication mechanisms of retroviruses. In particular, his elucidation of host-virus interactions, such as the role of TRIM5, Tetherin and Mx2, has had a major impact on our current understanding of intrinsic immunity against retroviruses and other viruses, much of which has now become textbook knowledge. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Bieniasz’s efforts have also provided crucial insights into the neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by antibodies and the mechanisms of viral escape.

In her laudatory speech, Prof. Dr. Isabella Eckerle described him “… as one of the most outstanding and influential virologists of his generation. Those to whom I have spoken in preparation for this laudation have described him not only as an excellent, bright researcher, but also as someone who has a real instinct for hot topics and a keen sense for exciting, unexpected findings. Once he has identified an exciting research question, he will address it in a clear, elegant and straightforward way to answer it.”

As the recipient of the 2024 Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievements in Virology, Professor Bieniasz embodies the spirit of innovation, dedication, and excellence in virology, not only in his science but also in education, as he has dedicated himself to training generations of young students in virology, many of whom have subsequently become highly successful scientists in Germany, the UK, and the US.

We are very grateful to Professor Bieniasz for delivering the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Award Lecture and sharing with us his invaluable insights from years of dedicated research in the field of virology.