Hailed as “breakthrough of the decade”, optogenetics is revolutionizing the field of neuroscience by enabling researchers to switch specific nerve cells on or off within living animals, thus helping them to uncover the cellular basis of complex behaviour. This is achieved by genetically modifying the cells so that their activity can be controlled with light. Prof Gero Miesenböck uses optogenetic tools in fruit flies to understand how neuronal circuits process information.
Named after the 1927 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Heinrich Wieland, the annual award recognises outstanding research on biologically active molecules and systems. It is among the most prestigious international science prizes awarded in Germany.