Leonid Sazanov Wins Schrödinger Award

Sixth ISTA scientist to receive this highest award by the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Schrödinger Prize winner Leonid Sazanov © Land NÖ, Abt. Wissenschaft & Forsc
Schrödinger Prize winner Leonid Sazanov © Land NÖ, Abt. Wissenschaft & Forschung, Jasmina Dzanic

At school, he was inspired by Schrödinger’s book ’What is Life’’ Now, several decades later, Leonid Sazanov is awarded the Erwin Schrödinger Prize by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). The scientist heads a research group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) and is honored "for his outstanding achievements in the field of structural biology of membrane protein complexes." Sazanov is the sixth ISTA scientist to receive the prestigious Schrödinger Award.

"I am especially honored to receive this price, because it was reading Erwin Schrödinger ’ s book ’What is Life’’ back in school which encouraged me to pursue biophysics later at the university," reminisces ISTA Professor Leonid Sazanov. Born in 1960, his academic path led him through renowned institutions such as the Belarusian State University in Minsk and Moscow State University, where he received his doctorate in biophysics in 1990. He has worked internationally with renowned researchers and mentors, including Chemistry Nobel Prize winner John E. Walker. After 18 years at the University of Cambridge, he joined ISTA in Klosterneuburg in 2015 as the first structural biologist; today his group is an integral part of a thriving community on campus - and beyond.

"I am therefore very pleased to receive the Schrödinger Prize as it does not only underline the achievement of my research group at ISTA: It also shows the importance that the Academy assigns to basic research in general - and to structural biology and to a better understanding of membrane protein complexes in specific. Thus, I consider it an encouragement to all my colleagues around the world who are pursuing this field. Together, we can contribute to a better understanding of the causes of various diseases and lay the foundations for the development of drugs to combat them," says Sazanov.

Although the Institute of Science and Technology Austria only opened its doors in 2009, five other ISTA professors have already received the Erwin Schrödinger Prize from the ÖAW in the past: the mathematical physicist Robert Seiringer (2023), the mathematician László Erdos (2021), the neuroscientist Peter Jonas (2018), the plant biologist Jirí Friml (2015) and the biologist Nick Barton (2013).

"Being already the sixth scientist at ISTA to receive the Schrödinger Prize further bolsters my conviction that my research is embedded in the right place. The Institute allows for freedom of research to pursue fundamental scientific questions without being hampered by borders between conventional disciplines. I am convinced that this interdisciplinarity is crucial for future scientific developments," explains this year’s Schrödinger Prize laureate.

Last year, Sazanov already received the Science Prize of the Federal State of Lower Austria. The Schrödinger Prize 2024 is presented on Tuesday, March 12, during a festive ceremony at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.