Laureate Dr. Med. Till Schoofs

The Jung Foundation for Science and Research is awarding the Ernst Jung Career Advancement Prize 2018 to the Cologne virologist Dr. med. Till Schoofs for his work on deciphering viral control mechanisms with antibody therapies for HIV-1 infection. With the endowment of EUR 210,000 in total, the foundation is supporting Schoofs’ project on developing the therapy options for HIV further over a period of three years.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is still one of the major health problems in the world with more than 35 million infected individuals and a million deaths related to HIV every year. Although a highly effective measure already exists with antiretroviral therapy, there are still some challenges though. For example, the therapy has to be taken every day, has side effects and is difficult to implement in developing countries. It also only controls the infection but does not cure it. “HIV patients’ immune system is usually not able to generate an effective immune response to the HI virus,” explains Dr. med. Till Schoofs. “This is due, among other things, to the fact that the HI virus sequence constantly changes.” Therefore a number of different strains of the virus exist worldwide, which vary greatly thus posing the immune system with the challenge of not just battling one but a number of targets.

During his time as a postdoctoral fellow on the working group led by Michel C. Nussenzweig in the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller University, New York, Dr. med. Till Schoofs analysed the immune response of elite neutralisers, HIV infected individuals whose bodies have managed to generate an effective antibody immune response to the diversity of the HI virus contrary to expectations. The research of this and other working groups identified broadly neutralising antibodies in these patients, which manage to battle a number of worldwide HIV strains. The 30-year-old virologist has been dedicated to the further analysis of therapy options with these promising antibodies at the Institute of Virology at University Hospital Cologne since November 2017.

Where does someone who has dedicated their time to fighting one of the greatest and most devastating infectious diseases of our time get their strength? “I am convinced that it is important to make time for other things besides work,” describes Schoofs. “At the end of the day, the time spent with family and friends or sporting activities gives you more energy and a new perspective on work. This ultimately doesn’t make you slower but faster as you return fresh and motivated.” Till Schoofs comes from Hamm in Westphalia. He is a keen amateur chef and enjoys live indoor cycling like Peloton or Flywheel.