EMBO and ZMBH mourn Hermann BujardWe are very sad about the death of Hermann Bujard (1934-2020). Hermann was an active and highly eminent scientist, with many achievements in scientific discovery and method development, as well as in the pharmaceutical world and science administration. He was one of the founders of the ZMBH (Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University) and long-time director shaping a department-like structure. He impressed numerous colleagues and young scientists with his enthusiasm for scientific discovery and standards. Hermann became an EMBO Member in 1976 and was intensely engaged with the organization from early on. He played an important role in defining Heidelberg as the site to house EMBL, and therefore EMBO. He served as the Director of EMBO from 2007 to 2009 and continued to be available for valuable advice whenever needed. We will miss him. This webpage was created to display online messages of condolences following the death of Hermann.
Messages of condolence
Memories of Heidelberg
Hermann Bujard was one of the main drivers of the inspiring environment that began to flourish on the Neuenheimer Feld campus of Heidelberg University in the 1970s. It was this spirit of fascination that led me to Molecular Biology. I also remember him as a co-founder of the ZMBH, who supported me in setting up my group as the first one at ZMBH, which marked the beginning of my independent research career.
In Hermann Bujard we have lost an enthusiastic teacher and brilliant scientist.
THANK YOU and I’ll miss you!
Dear Herr Bujard,
You had such a profound impact on me in both my professional and personal life. It is beyond word to describe how sad I felt when I heard the word of your passing.
I received solid training in Molecular Biology during my stay in your lab. The world class research center, cutting edge research projects, endless seminars and stimulating discussions with you and during the lab meetings provided best environment to nurture young scientists like myself. Through many discussions, I learned from you the skills of critical thinking, problem solving and the passion for science and humanity. I still remembered that you said you would never give up developing an anti-malaria vaccine after you had a slide show for a trip you had recently made to Mali. You took personal interest in helping me with my post-doctoral destination. Your teaching/mentoring and caring helped me grow both as a scientist and person and my stay in your lab was one of the most critical moments in my professional and personal life. Now, 30 years later, I am working on developing precision genetic medicines that literally save lives. Dear Herr Bujard, I wanted to let you know that you played such an important role in shaping me as is today!
When I arrived in your lab, it was my first time ever out of my country. You took extra effort to take care of me and made sure that I adjusted as smoothly as possible. I still vividly remember the memorable time I spent with you and your family at your house for my first ever Christmas dinner; the furniture you gave me to decorate my apartment and the concerts we went together; the numerous conversations we had on people, culture, history, politics and life. Even after I left your lab and moved to California, you brought wood train toy to my new-born son when you visited us…
The German word “Doktorvater” is such a precise word when it describes my relationship with you. You were not only my scientific Vater, but also in many ways, took care a young foreigner like me like a Vater. I was so fortunate to associate with you and am so proud of your scientific accomplishments!
Herr Bujard, you will be missed dearly!
A true role model
I joined Prof. Bujard’s lab in 1999 being a 22 year old, naive medical student. When I applied for a position in his lab I had not really an idea about his merits and achievements. I was only looking for an opportunity to work on Malaria. I left his lab 7 years later with a PhD in my pocket and a little bit less naive 🙂 Looking back – 14 years later – I start to understand how much Prof. Bujard taught me. For me he became the blueprint of a „boss“: Leading by example with passion in everything he did. Appreciating different cultural backgrounds and encouraging everybody to express his or her opinion even if it is against the mainstream.
I am glad that he could still witness the successful phase 1 trial of our vaccine and a little bit sad that he won‘t be able to write the paper about the next phase trials.
Professor Bujard, I don‘t know if you can see what is written here by so many people… Having positively influenced so many biographies…what else can you hope for in life.
Thank you for everything!
An extraordinary and dedicated scientist
I came to know Hermann Bujard over the last years as my ZMBH 5th floor office neighbour. I miss the friendly and stimulating conversations and I miss the ‘hum’ of purposeful industry as he put in long hours at his desk. The extent and impact of his scientific achievements and his contributions to bioscience in Heidelberg and Europe are truely inspiring.
A great mentor and wonderful human being
When my children ask me about some of the best years of my life, the first thing that always comes to mind are my years as diploma and PhD student in Hermann Bujard’s lab. He managed to find the most versatile individuals and melted them into a crowd with common interests whether on the scientific or on the social level. We will all remember the Friday journal clubs, writing experiments on coffee filters and rowing down the Dordogne. His integrity and scholarship inspired many people, influenced the lives of all of his students as he did influence mine, not only as a teacher, but also as a counselor, guide and friend.
Thank you Hermann Bujard for all of this………you will be missed dearly.
A BIG thank you to my “Doktorvater”
Dear Prof. Bujard,
wherever you are, I trust you can hear all of us. I would like to thank you for 5 wonderful years at you group at the ZMBH in Heidelberg. I was honored to get a place in your research group and did my Diploma and PhD work in the middle of a wonderful group of people.
I decided to pursue a career away from molecular biology research and joined Procter & Gamble and later McKinsey & Company before leaving Germany for Malaysia. Although I left research, you were very supportive and encouraged me to go a different track and I am very very thankful for your open minded approach and advice during the time I was making this difficult decision.
You were a true “Doktorvater”
Dr. Martin Berlin
PricewaterhouseCoopers Middle East
I’ll miss my Doktorvater
As the first in my family to go to University I could not have wished for a better PhD mentor than Hermann Bujard. He really became my academic father, giving me the scientific tools and the confidence to strike out into the world. The academic environment in his lab and his research at the ZMBH was world-class. At the same time, he made it fun to be part of his research team. I remember fondly many excursions, parties and dinners. I was fortunate to have been one of his first students to work on the malaria project which included field studies in Africa, an experience that had a lasting impact on me. In fact, I came back to vaccine research (including malaria vaccines) as soon as I had my own faculty position. We stayed in touch over the years visiting each other on occasion. It was always a treat spending time with him and I miss him dearly. Thank you Dr. Bujard for being my mentor and friend.
Lieber Herr Bujard,
vielen Dank für so vieles!
Als junger Mensch in Ihrer Arbeitsgruppe arbeiten zu dürfen war für mich ein Glücksgriff. Es hat meinen Weg maßgeblich geprägt, Freundschaften sind daraus hervorgegangen, die immer noch bestehen. Das liegt vor allem daran, dass Sie das Talent hatten, die richtigen Menschen zusammen zu bringen. Spaß mit beruflichem Ehrgeiz zu verbinden ist Ihnen gelungen. Ich habe Sie sehr geschätzt und werde Sie vermissen.
Dear Prof. Bujard,
We have met many years ago at “your” institute. Our ways crossed at several occasions afterwards and I am very happy that I had the chance to get to know you. For the young PhD students, junior scientists and colleagues, you have always been an example. Being successful and disputative but always empathic and standing firmly behind your people. We will cherish the memory of you, your visions, your warmth.
Prof. Dr. Oliver Gruß
Hermann Bujards’ achievements exceeded his scientific work. In quiet humanity he offered his strong, helpful hand. To this end, Ivana would not have become happy in Germany without his support and my academic carrier would have ended early. In molecular biology, he could be sharp and critical, his personal support was stable and enduring. Ivana and I owed much to you. Thank you.
A science hero
Hi Hermann, I will always remember you as a true scientist and a great human being. Your invention of the Tet system attracted me to join your lab as a postdoc for about 2 1/2 years. Your work on the Tet system has impacted all fields of biology, including neuroscience, and I for one has been the beneficiary of your invention. The world will always remember you for your impactful contribution to science and so will I. If there are heavens out there, you deserve to be there, and I hope that it will have all the fruits of science and humanity, that fits to your intellect and humanitarian pursuits, and your unforgettable joyfulness that ignites happiness in other when in your company. Rest in peace!
The mRNA is not a laundry line…
…is one of my first formative memories of you, Hermann Bujard. Your kind of characterizing elementary principles of cellular biology – not only mechanistically but also quantitatively – inspired me as a young student. To me, Hermann Bujard, you were an excellent researcher, a driver and a titan of molecular biology, a great person and mentor in scientific and private matters. I am pleased and very grateful to have had the honour of being one of your PhD students.
Dear Hermann Bujard, the way you lived and taught science shaped us and will remain in us, your students! I will miss you very much as a scientist and a friend!
Thank you Hermann
My first encounter with Prof. Bujard was at the first conference I sneaked in, as an undergrad. I think the fact that the slides had hand-drawn images impressed me just as much as the smartness of the Tet system. Years later, without being his student, I asked him for advice on the steps to take after my PhD at the ZMBH. Thank you Hermann, I still carry with me the wisdom and integrity message you gave me. Thank you for being a fighter and a visionary – I believe your vaccine will make a great difference and wish you would have been able to see it. Thank you and Nicole for showing us that miracles can happen. Thank you for your generosity, for the recent but deep friendship, and for your support in my fight against cancer. I miss you.
Prof. Hermann Bujard, an exceptional mentor…
Very sad to learn that Prof. Hermann Bujard passed away. He co-founded ZMBH, that became a successful role model for many other research institutes. I feel privileged to be an Alumnus and still refer to this outstanding place and its visionary concept. Prof. Bujard and I had numerous discussions about society, science and scientific innovations. Not only was he a great scientist, but he was also an exceptional mentor, who taught me and others that science can make the world a better place. I hope current and future generations of scientist will follow in his footsteps. I will miss him.
True scientist and a great person
Remembering Hermann Bujard from my time as a group leader at the ZMBH, I still feel inspired by his passion for science, open-mindedness and brilliance. I had an honour of “inheriting” Hermann’s last diploma student and his part of the lecture course, both of which was a great support for a starting group leader. But most memorable were our occasional conversations, where with a great deal of wit he told me about his early days in science and expressed his views on science and science politics. In this, Hermann was very outspoken and critical but also really fun to talk to. When Hermann learned that I am moving to the Max Planck Society, he didn’t hesitate for a moment to make rather revolutionary suggestions how to restructure it. I’ll truly miss Hermann as an excellent scientist and a great discussion partner.
Hermann Bujard – a truly inspiring and kind
Dear Hermann, it has been such a privilege to have known you. You impressed me deeply – both as an inspiring role model who combined brilliant science and strong engagement for science and society, and as a very generous and kind person. I will miss you deeply.
“The aims of life are the best defense against death.” – Primo Levi
Starting my lab at the ZMBH as a young group leader in 2000 I was awed and immensely grateful to be able to learn from Hermann Bujard. He radiated scientific inspiration and rigour. He reminded all of us that as scientists and as citizens it matters what we do – all the time, in detail. Every exchange with him yielded insight and perspective, be it scientific, historical or political. They don’t make his kind anymore.
Heramann Bujard: an example for us all… value your senior scientists
I arrived in Heidelberg and joined the ZMBH many years after Hermann Bujard had formally retired from that Institute, which he had helped form. But Hermann was still there. Not only in spirit as a founder, but physically, spending hours in his office on the 5th floor, working on his Malaria project, or on policy issues in European Science. And he talked with anyone who happened by. He seemed cognizant that he could still give to the Institute in this role. I remember Hermann as someone to go to for a few words of wisdom. He had knowledge (lots of it), and experience and, yes, abundant generosity and kindness. Hermann helped me to understand science in Germany, and from time to time in his modest way he offered advice, encouragement and inspiration. Even mature scientists need that sometimes. For me, Hermann was unique in this role in the ZMBH, even in his later years. He will be missed, but hopefully his will to inspire will live on.
We will always remember
We first met Hermann when we joined his lab as a Postdoctoral fellow (Carmen) and Visiting Professor (Hernando) at ZMBH, back in 1998-99. In the wonderful year and a half that we spent there, we will always remember mainly three things from him: (i) he was a fantastic human being, who along with Regina (another fantastic human being), were always enjoying and generously sharing essential things of life: simple dinners, good music, good wine and endless conversations; (ii) he was an outstanding and ethical scientist who committed his life to key discoveries and innovation, i.e. the tet-system, and to equity in global health through his efforts to develop a malaria vaccine; (iii) above all, his endless passion for scientific discussions; in fact, our memories always go back to our Journal Clubs and the impressive fact that, in spite of all his responsibilities, he prepared articles to present himself and always made time for scientific/results discussion with every single person of his group! We will always admire and miss him.
Hermann, rest in peace with Regina
Carmen and Hernando
Hermann’s enthusiasm for science was
Hermann’s enthusiasm for science was clear and contagious, and made all discussions with him a pleasure. He will be greatly missed, as will the good stories he would always tell.
Thank you for your silent support in those years.
Herman Bujard was an outstanding molecular biologist who set up a fantastic tool. Too many people ignore that he was the inventor of such a potent technology. On the top of that , Herman was generous of his time for his colleagues and at EMBO, we all have been so grateful that he accepted to become the Director. He has been great. Herman was a modest person who knew a lot . Moreover, he was kind , very kind with elegance and efficiency. He really needs more recognition.
I am grateful to have had the privilege of knowing him
The first time I met Hermann Bujard was as a postdoc at the ZMBH in 1996 and I was instantly deeply impressed by him. As soon as he entered the room he filled it with his charisma. We are losing a wonderful person and excellent scientist. A painful loss!
I wanted to be like
I wanted to be like you.
It must have been in the year 1980, when I, as a young student of Biology took the ‘Molecular Biology’ course organised by Hermann Bujard and his team. This was an eye-opener. Small teams were given different plasmids of unknown identity, and during the next three weeks we had to characterise them and compare them to the ones from neighbours. Finally, we gotta see them on EM grids. I still keep my note book from this time. This was this an exemplary case of outstanding teaching; for me personally this course laid the foundation for my strong desire to become a molecular biologist. Hermann Bujard continued to be a role model during the next decades. I talked to him last on June 13, on the sad occasion of Günther Schütz’s funeral, my PhD mentor. Hermann was lucid in conversation and passionate about their latest developments towards a Malaria vaccine. We remembered the ‘detective story’ practicals of the 1970s. Whatever Hermann did, he did it well. I will not forget him.
Peter B. Becker
Chair of Molecular Biology, LMU Munich
Wish we had more of his kind
I remember Hermann as an outstanding researcher and organizer with an always open ear for young scientists. In a very unique way, he was able to motivate colleagues and scholars – always with a lot of humor and a twinkle in his eye. We will miss you.
Sad news but a lasting legacy
I was really sad to hear that Hermann Bujard had passed away before he could see his most ambitious project – the malaria vaccine – come to fruition. He worked doggedly at this for so many years – but I know that he has left it in good hands. If it works it will be huge legacy for mankind: much more important than the tet system, which transformed research on mammalian cells.
I first met Hermann when I arrived to form my own lab in the ZMBH in 1990. He and his wife, Regina, generously invited me to live with them for a few weeks, until I could move into my own house. My lab was also on the same floor as Hermann’s, so we shared lab meetings. (I still remember the impact of the beer on late Friday afternoons). This was the time that the tet system was being developed, and Hermann and Manfred’s work was the key inspiration for our own development of a tetracycline-inducible system for trypanosomes. He was always supportive, and was keen to appoint women at a time when many in the faculty thought this wasn’t important. I remember long discussions in ZMBH group leader meetings and faculty meetings, which were critical not only in determining the direction of the ZMBH, but also in fundamentally changing the direction of the faculty. Later, I got to know Hermann’s wife Regina, as well, through a choir. Hermann was always friendly and interested. I will miss talking with him on the 5th floor and at bumping into him concerts.
Most kind and passionate scientist
I am going to miss you Hermann, as an extremely kind and inspiring scientist, whom I enjoyed to frequently bump into on the 5th floor of the ZMBH – your achievements during your impressively long career have been truly remarkable.
Rest in peace
Three early kick-offs
Maria Leptin wrote a wonderful eulogy to honor the memory of Hermann Bujard on behalf of the EMBO. As one of the older members of EMBO I would like to add three stories of my friend Hermann´s early scientific life, which have deeply influenced my life in science.
Hermann Bujard – three early „kick-offs“ in his career in science.
Hermann teaches modern biology in Heidelberg.
At the end of the 1960´s, Hermann Bujard returned from Madison, Wisconsin to join Ekkehard Bautz at the Institute of Genetics of the University of Heidelberg as associate professor. There, he began his studies on promotor controls of gene expression. With Peter von Sengbusch, postdoctoral assistant of Ken Holmes, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Hermann began teaching modern molecular genetics. He was soon admired for his fascinating ways of teaching. To enforce their teaching programs Hermann and Peter worked out a new curriculum for modern biology, which was accepted by a surprised faculty of biology. Well-trained biology students soon became the treasure of the biology faculty, to become active not only at the university, but also at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (MPIMR) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).
Within this reformed curriculum Hermann and Peter invited Jan Andersson, Dietmar Braun and me, all of us scientific members of the Basel Institute for Immunology (BII), a research institute founded, fully funded and owned by F. Hoffmann-La Roche (Roche), the pharmaceutical company in Basel, Switzerland. The BII was free to conduct research on the structures and functions of immune systems in full academic freedom. The three members of the BII obtained „Lehraufträge“ at the biology faculty of the University of Heidelberg to teach modern Immunology. This included weekly 2-hour lectures given by me during the summer semester, and a three week-long full day practical course given by either Jan or Dietmar and me. Between 1971 and 1978 more than two hundred students learned to live with us in immunology, during the days and even sometimes well into the nights. The current director of EMBO was one of these students. By the time Wulf Dröge, Klaus Eichmann, Günter Hämmerling and Peter Krammer came to the DKFZ to build up immunological research, modern immunology had been introduced to Heidelberg.
Hermann brings the EMBL to Heidelberg.
In the early 70´s EMBO invited proposals for a laboratory to be set up somewhere in the Federal Republic of Germany. Although Munich initially appeared as the most likely choice, Hermann and Peter, in long nights in the basement of the MPIMR, worked out a submission, which was supported by the university, the DKFZ and the city of Heidelberg. It offered EMBO young talented local students taught by the modernized biology curriculum, and scientific cooperations with local university departments, the MPIIMR and the DKFZ. The city provided a potential building site for the laboratory, as well as plans for multiligual KITAs and other essential infrastructure for a multinational European laboratory. To everyone´s surprise, Heidelberg was chosen as the site.
Now that Hermann has died, Heidelberg can no longer express its gratitude to him.
Hermann introduces molecular biology into the research program of Roche.
When, in 1980, I succeeded Niels Jerne as director of the BII, I promised the owners and managers of Roche to find ways to introduce modern molecular biology into the company´s research capacities. The hope was to expand the highly successful development of low molecular weight compounds (>500, like Valium and Librium), synthesized by chemical methods, to proteins (up to 150 000 kD like cytokines and monoclonal antibodies), synthesized from promotor-controlled genes by biological methods.
I thought, that Hermann´s promotor research, combined with his teaching capacities would be an ideal expansion of Roche´ research into the world of proteins as pharmaceuticals.
I had seen Hermann growing unhappy with the limitations of his associate professorship in Heidelberg, so I proposed him to the president and the owners of Roche as Director of a new section on Molecular Biology of Roche´s research in Basel.
To my happy surprise, Hermann accepted this challenge. The results of this early entry of Roche into the modern world of pharmaceuticals are stupendous. Although, after threev years Hermann returned to Heidelberg to become the Director and full professor of the ZMBH, conceived by him, this three year „kick-off“ of modern molecular biology has been one of the earliest and essential transformations of Roche in Europe into what today is the biggest pharmaceutical company of the world, a growth due to large molecular weight pharmaceuticals, such as monoclonal antibodies – controlled by promotors.
In 1968 my short, unexpected encounter with four tourists – Hermann, his wife Regine and his children Michael and Nicole – on the lawn in front of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California started a life-long friendship between them and my wife Ursula, my daughter Andrea and me. This friendship has deeply influenced and enriched my professional and our family´s personal life. Our family´s deep sympathy goes to Michael and Nicole, who have now lost both of their parents.
Grenzach/Berlin 7.August 2020
Saudades Dearest Herman
It was with a great sadness that I learned that the great scientist and the nice person Herman Bujard passed away. I met Herman several times in particular in my Institute where he gave two fantastic talks, one about his own work and the other one about EMBO when he was the director of this big organization. We talked a lot and I gathered several EMBO members to have a dinner
and we all liked to talk to him and we appreciated his simplicity and intelligence. I am sending to his family my sincere condolences Claudina
From imaging DNA to malaria vaccines
I will miss Hermann Bujard for his great stories, deep and inspirational insights and great sense of humour, while his scientific and organisational legacy will be with us for many years to come. Who could forget him telling about getting the EMBO commission to have beers on a bar at the Philosophenweg and persuade them to build EMBL in Heidelberg instead of in Munich, where they were made to listen to Opera? His refusal to adhere to some non-sensical rules on gene technology. “Scientists are too tame these days”, he would say and I wish I will be able to cite this statement at least once in a meaningful way. His eyes were as awake talking about seeing DNA strands opening up by electron microscopy as they were decades ago when he performed the experiments. He took pleasure in having students in faraway places explaining him how cool the TET system of conditional gene regulation was, without them realising they were talking to its inventor. He used the proceeds the patent made to finance part of his malaria research into an MSP1 based vaccine. “You know”, he told me, “I am not sure it will work, but I want to do the experiment. And if it doesn’t work that’s that”. How many people can take such distance to a job requiring decades of highest dedication? I am happy I could contribute my tiny bit to one of his last adventures. “We should discuss more often”, he would say after our short meetings or a dinner. His passing leaves a big void in my heart.
Goodbye dear friend
I will remember Hermann as a very kind and decent human being who respected and valued the lives of African children suffering from malaria. He devoted his time and resources to developing a vaccine that he hoped would have a significant impact on the lives of many in Africa. He believed in and won the respect of many African scientists. May your legacy live on Hermann.
Farewell from Izmir
Dr. Hermann Bujard served as the President of the Scientific Advisory Board of Izmir Biomedicine and Genome Center (Turkey) between 2015-2018. The board he headed was instrumental to the creating of the first Life Sciences and Biotechnology National Center of Turkey. As an exceptional man of science who dedicated most of his career to serve humanity though a malaria vaccine project, we admired Hermann for his dedication to international solidarity. Lİke many extraordinary scientists he was modest in his relations with his peers.
We will never forget him.
Prof. Mehmet Öztürk
I admired Hermann very profoundly both scientifically and personally. When he worked in gene transcription, he established a fundamental principle of promoter optimization that the rest of us have used along the years. In my contacts with him, I believe that we got along very well most likely because of a common co-incidence in our characters: Hermann would not let things pass without his comments, whether the listener liked or not. He was a superb scientist and, what is more, a superb human being.
Excellent scientist and a great person
It is with sadness that I find about Hermann’s death. I feel fortunate that I met him, an excellent scientist and a wonderful person that I respect and admire deeply.
In Trauer für einen unvergesslichen Kollegen und Mentor
Please accept my condolences on the passing of Hermmann Bujard. Mitsuko and I miss him dearly. Hermann was one of the the original cohort of molecular biologists and played a decisive part in bringing EMBO/EMBL to Heidelberg. His flamboyant tales of the golden era of Heidelberg University life and research will stay with us. We were so impressed that Hermann remained intellectually more than fully engaged and also active in Malaria vaccine research until very recently – what an inspiration! I am also very grateful in his mentorship and creative ideas for EMBO Press while we worked together on the hill. He was an incredibly knowledgeable, broadly interested person and a critical, fiercely independent thinker – an intellectual in every sense of the word. He will certainly be greatly missed – also for his warm and highly entertaining character.