Florian Wilfling Receives Walther Flemming Award

The German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zellbiologie) and the company ibidi honor Florian Wilfling for his excellent research in cell biology

November 27, 2023

Florian Wilfling, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biophysics since 2020, receives the prestigious Walther Flemming Award 2023 for his research on the cell's waste disposal process, known as autophagy. On November 29, 2023, he will give his online award lecture. The prize includes a financial contribution and is given annually by ibidi and the DGZ to aspiring early career scientists for current work that defines their independent research profile.

Text: Katharina Kaefer

Florian Wilfling and his group at the MPI of Biophysics study how our cells recycle their waste. The process called autophagy is an important quality control system whose malfunction is associated with diseases such as metabolic disorders, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Parkinson's or dementia. Understanding this process can therefore aid the development of new medical therapies. The Wilfling group investigates the structure of autophagosomes that act as the garbage truck in this process. These organelles with a double membrane are newly formed in the cell and transport the material to be degraded to the waste shredder, the lysosomes. In this way, the cell removes and recycles excessive, damaged or dangerous material, for example proteins, organelles or pathogens such as bacteria. The size and texture of the material to be disposed of can therefore vary enormously, from small biomolecules to bulky large cellular building blocks. The Wilfling group wants to find out in detail how autophagosomes are produced in order to be able to engulf such a wide variety of materials. He uses high-resolution light and electron microscopy to observe the process of autophagosome formation and to visualize how and from which membrane sources the double membrane is formed, and how it changes in shape and curvature during the process.

Florian Wilfing Pursues Successful Academic Career

Florian Wilfling studied biochemistry at the Technical University of Munich. With a fellowship awarded by the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds, he joined the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven in the US as a doctoral researcher and completed his PhD in 2013. As a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, he received a prestigious fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), which supports excellent researchers in the life sciences. During his time as a postdoctoral scientist and project leader at the MPI of Biochemistry, he discovered his fascination for autophagy that he is now exploring further as a group leader at the MPI of Biophysics. Last year, he was awarded a prestigious ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant for his research on autophagy.

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Websites of the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zellbiologie) und Link zur Preisvorlesung:


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