About the Founders

Chica and Heinz Schaller were distinguished molecular biologists whose professional lives centred on three of Germany’s leading academic institutions. At EMBL Heidelberg and Hamburg University, Chica was recognised for achievements in developmental neurosciences. At Heidelberg University, Heinz was among the pioneers who helped to translate the still-emerging field of molecular biology into practical, life-saving applications. What they shared throughout their lives was the excitement and promise of discoveries in biomedicine.

The Foundation is a legacy of Chica and Heinz Schaller and their remarkable careers.

Prof. Dr. H. Chica Schaller


A partner in the multiple ventures successfully undertaken by the Schallers, Chica began her career as a linguist. However, inspired by the spirit of discovery, she decided to become a scientist and soon gained international recognition for her achievements in developmental neurobiology. Among her accomplishments was her role in helping to establish the Center for Molecular Neurobiology in Hamburg.

A key part of Chica’s legacy will be the support provided for talented young scientists, especially young women in science. Chica has been an inspiration for several generations of them.

1991 – 2005 Full Professor and Director, Institute for Developmental Neurobiology at the Center for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg University (ZMNH)

1984 – 1991  Group Leader, Center for Molecular Biology, Heidelberg University (ZMBH)

1979 – 1984  Heisenberg Scholar, Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg

1975 – 1979  Group Leader, European Molecular Biology Laboratories (EMBL)

1970 – 1974  Research Associate, Max-Planck-Institute for Virus Research, Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Heinz Schaller

Heinz Schaller was a pioneer of modern molecular biology. He was the driving force in the creation of the Center for Molecular Biology in Heidelberg, a visionary institution that served as a model for other institutions subsequently built in Germany, such as the Gene Center in Munich and the Center for Molecular Neurology in Hamburg. His first scientific breakthrough was the synthesis of the pentanucleotides with defined sequences in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Gobind Khorana, Wisconsin. This laid the foundation for decoding the genetic code. Other scientific contributions included the identification of the Escherichia coli DNA polymerase III, the Pribnow-Schaller-Box in bacterial promoter elements, and replication and infection mechanisms of Hepatitis B virus. Heinz also had the vision to translate his groundbreaking research on infectious agents into new therapies. Together with Walter Gilbert, Kenneth Murray, Philipp Allen Sharp and Charles Weissmann, he was among the founders of Biogen, which developed into an internationally famous biotechnology company based in Massachusetts. He had the natural talent to recruit and train young scientists, many of whom are today renowned scientists.

Heinz Schaller passed away on 10 April, 2010 at the age of 78.

1983 – 2010 ZMBH

1978 – 1986 Scientific Board Member, Biogen NV (Supervisory Director from 1980 – 1982)

1978 Co-founder of Biogen NV

1976 Member of European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) (Member of EMBO Council from 1980 – 1984)

1974 – 2000 Full Professor and Head of the Institute of Microbiology, Heidelberg University

1968 – 1974 Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institute for Virus Research, Tübingen

1963 – 1968 Research Associate, Max-Planck-Institute for Virus Research, Tübingen

1961 – 1962 Research Associate, Institute for Enzyme Research, Madison, Wisconsin