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The 2019 Nobel Prizes and the Promise of Science

Every Nobel Prize week, we remember CSL Behring’s namesake, named a Nobel laureate in 1901.

Combined photo of Emil von Behring and his 1901 Nobel Prize for medicine.

Congratulations to the 2019 winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine – three researchers who unlocked the secrets of how cells detect and adapt to changing oxygen levels.

The discoveries by William G. Kaelin Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen” and “revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes,” according to the Nobel Prize announcement.

During Nobel Prize Week, CSL Behring remembers Emil von Behring, our namesake and winner of the first Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1901. Get to know von Behring though these 10 fast facts. 

  1. Von Behring was born in Hansdorf, West Prussia on March 15, 1854, the eldest son of the second marriage of a schoolmaster who had 13 children in all.
  2. He entered the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Military Medicine in 1874. His family couldn’t afford to keep him at university and this made his studies affordable, but came with an obligation to remain in military service for several years following graduation.
  3. Four years later in 1878, he earned his doctorate with a dissertation on ophthalmology.
  4. Robert Koch (who would later win The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905 for his tuberculosis discoveries) appointed von Behring as an assistant to the world-famous Hygiene Institute at the University of Berlin.
  5. Von Behring collaborated closely with Japanese bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitasato, who also made significant contributions to vaccine science.
  6. In 1893, von Behring started the first trial of diphtheria antitoxic serum in humans.
  7. In 1901, von Behring was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria, by which he has opened a new road in the domain of medical science and thereby placed in the hands of the physician a victorious weapon against illness and deaths."
  8. Von Behring founded Behring-Werk in Marbach near Marburg, Germany in 1905. Today, CSL Behring continues to have a large, leading-edge site in Marburg.
  9. In 1914, he reported on his successful toxin-antitoxin diphtheria therapy employing mass vaccination at the Congress for Internal Medicine in Wiesbaden.
  10. Von Behring, known as the “savior of the children,” died of pneumonia in Marburg on March 31, 1917. His death evoked wide international sympathy.