Professor Matthias Hentze was born in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Germany. He attended Münster University Medical School, Germany, and also studied at Medical Schools in the United Kingdom (Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Southampton). After completing his medical qualification and an M.D. in Biochemistry (Münster), Matthias carried out postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland, USA), before joining EMBL Heidelberg as a Group Leader in 1989. He obtained the Habilitation from Heidelberg University in 1990 and became Professor for Molecular Medicine in 2005. Matthias served as the Dean of Graduate Studies from 1996 until being promoted to the position as EMBL Associate Director in July 2005. In 2013 he was appointed as EMBL Director.
As a research scientist, Matthias Hentze has made multiple landmark contributions to the understanding of posttranscriptional gene regulation, especially the control of protein synthesis. His work has also provided fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms governing iron homeostasis and diseases of altered iron metabolism. Matthias co-founded the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU) between EMBL and the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University in 2002, which he co-directs and where he conducts translational research on common diseases of iron metabolism and of altered mRNA metabolism. Recent work by the Hentze group has uncovered hundreds of new RNA-binding proteins, including many metabolic enzymes. Their current work focuses on the elucidation of connections between metabolism and gene regulation.
Matthias Hentze’s research contributions have been recognized in numerous ways including Germany’s prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2000, the 2007 Lautenschläger Research Prize of Heidelberg University, and the 2015 Feodor Lynen Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and an Honorary Faculty Member of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney (Australia). In 2016, he became the first German scientist elected as a Corresponding Member of the Australian Academy of Science and the same year he was also elected to the Academia Europaea. In 2017, he received the Doctor of Science honoris causa from Australia National University (ANU) in Canberra and in 2018, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Matthias Hentze is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Centenary Institute in Sydney (Australia), of Cold Spring Harbor Conferences Asia (Suzhou, China), the Centro de Biologia Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (Madrid, Spain), and the Istituto Nationale di Genetica Molecolare (Milano, Italy). He presently serves on the Selection Committee for the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and on the Editorial Boards of Molecular Cell, EMBO Molecular Medicine, Trends in Biochemical Sciences, and RNA.
As EMBL Director, Matthias advises and works closely with EMBL’s Director General and supports her representing EMBL as an international scientific research, training and service organisation. While the Director General and the governing EMBL Council set the overall programme and directions of the Laboratory, the Director contributes to their implementation and generates additional opportunities for the Laboratory. He promotes aspects of EMBL’s public engagement and communication strategy, generating visibility and positive awareness of the Laboratory. The Director oversees the areas Resource Development and Alumni Relations, and is supported by the Director's Office.
The Director reserves priority time for the Laboratory’s major private funders. He seeks their advice and support and communicates the Laboratory’s vision, achievements and needs. The Director also works closely with the Board of EMBL’s Alumni Association to maximise mutually beneficial interactions between EMBL Alumni, EMBL staff and the Laboratory itself.