Professor Axel Ullrich is Director of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany.
Professor Axel Ullrich’s work has not only elucidated major fundamental molecular mechanisms of cancer but also initiated the era of personalised and targeted medicine to the ultimate goal of cancer cure. Professor Ullrich has pioneered in developing molecular targets specific to cancer cells and engineered drugs that can act specifically at the targets. Consequently, the new concept of targeted cancer therapy offers better efficacy in killing cancer cells while doing less harm to normal cells and therefore, reducing the side effect of cancer chemotherapy.
Professor Ullrich has made most of the major contributions for the development of specific treatment for breast cancer, one of the prototypic targeted therapeutic agents in cancer. He discovered and evaluated biological and clinical significant of a breast oncogene called HER2/c-erB2. His laboratory then developed several monoclonal antibodies against HER2, one of which was subsequently humanized and developed into Herceptin (Trastuzumab), as a therapeutic for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Patients with cancer that express HER2 response very well to this treatment. This targeted therapy also initiated the era of personalized medicine, as the response is limited to women whose tumors express HER2.