American Philosophical Society
Member History

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5. The Arts, Professions, and Leaders in Public & Private Affairs[X]
1Name:  Prof. Dr. Reinhard Kurth
 Institution:  Ernst Schering Foundation; Robert Koch Institute; Humboldt University
 Year Elected:  2005
 Class:  5. The Arts, Professions, and Leaders in Public & Private Affairs
 Subdivision:  503. Administrators, Bankers and Opinion Leaders from the Public or Private Sectors
 Residency:  International
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1942
 Death Date:  February 2, 2014
The virologist and clinician Reinhard Kurth was born in 1942 in Dresden, Germany. At his death on February 2, 2014, he was the Chairman of the Foundation Council at the Ernst Schering Foundation. He was President Emeritus of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, where he had also a postdoctoral fellow in the virology department from 1971-73. After a further two years as head of his own group at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories in London, he led a junior research group at the Max Planck Society in Tübingen, Germany, from 1975-80. In 1980 he became Head of the Virology Department of the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1986 he was appointed director of that institute, a post he held until 1999 and during the last three years of which he was simultaneously director of the Robert Koch Institute. From September 2004 he also held the post of Acting Director of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medicinal Products in Bonn. The focus of Reinhard Kurth's scientific work has long been the retroviruses. Various aspects of all three existing retroviral families have been investigated by him: the Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV), the Human T-Lymphotropic Viruses (HTLV) that can cause a particular form of leukemia, and the Human Endogenous Retroviruses (HERV), viruses that have become integrated into the human genome during the course of evolution and, like other genes, are passed from generation to generation. His focus was on the mechanisms of pathogenesis of HIV and SIV infections, the development of an AIDS vaccine, and the genomic organization and pathophysiology of HERVs. Reinhard Kurth, who after being licensed as a physician in 1969 moved into research, was the recipient of many scientific awards. In 1998 he was appointed a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science in recognition of his scientific achievements. He was elected an International member of the American Philosophical Society in 2005. In 2008 he was elected to the newly established German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He authored over 330 publications, among them approximately 60 reviews and contributions to books. He has delivered more than 500 external seminars, many abroad. One aim of his public activities was to enable opinion-makers and laypersons to make informed decisions in biomedical issues. It was also an important concern of his to make clear the importance of science as an investment in the future. His multidisciplinary communication activities, in addition to his public presentations, consisted of numerous contributions and interviews on radio and television and in newspapers and magazines. Dr. Kurth presented advances in infection research in the context of other social, ethical and political questions, for example by promoting the support for disease prevention in developing countries. As a member of the German Section of the Africa Commission and as personal representative of the German Chancellor in the Task Force Initiative against the spread of infectious diseases in the Baltic Sea States, he also strove to implement these demands in a practical way. Dr. Kurth was the principal advisor of the German Federal Government on biomedical issues. He was a much sought after discussant with the German Secretary of Health and Social Security and was regularly asked to appear in the German Parliament in a number of committees. The German Chancellor regularly asked for his opinion on biomedical issues, including aspects of bioterrorism. Reinhard Kurth was married and had two grown-up children. His wife Bärbel-Maria Kurth was also his closest companion.
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