European Inventor Award finalist Stefan Hell won Nobel Prize

Hell (Germany) and Nakamura (US) join Peter Grünberg (Germany) in the ranks of European Inventor Award alumni who have gone on to become Nobel Laureates

Two past European Inventor Award finalists have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. European Inventor Award 2007 finalist Shuji Nakamura (US) has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, and European Inventor Award 2008 finalist Stefan Hell (Germany) the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The award ceremony will take place in Stockholm on 10 December. Both scientists have previously been honoured by the European Patent Office through its annual European Inventor Award.

stefan-50x50Stefan Hell, along with Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner, were announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. For his ground-breaking work in developing the STED microscope, Hell was a finalist in the “Lifetime achievement” category of the European Inventor Award in 2008.

Launched in 2006, the European Inventor Award is presented annually by the European Patent Office in five categories to individuals and teams whose pioneering inventions provides answers to the challenges of our age and thereby contribute to social progress, economic growth and prosperity.

Stefan Hell’s STED microscope breaks the visual barrier

Another ground-breaking contribution, this time to clinical microbiology, came in 2001 with the revolutionary Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscope, developed by Professor Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany.  Though his efforts met with considerable doubt from colleagues in the beginning, Hell went on to develop a light microscope with a much higher resolution than anyone thought possible. (See for example European patent EP0801759.)

With a microscope able to look deep inside living cells, scientists can launch new studies into the origins of diseases and develop new insights into the principles of life at a molecular level. Hell’s invention has advanced the research of cancer and infectious diseases tremendously, a field to which he himself has contributed directly as head of the High Resolution Optical Microscopy Division at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg. Little wonder STED has quickly proven an essential tool in everyday clinical research.