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Manfred Eigen

Manfred Eigen (born May 9, 1927, Bochum) is a German biophysicist and a former director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, now an honorary doctor of Technical University of Munich.

In 1967, he was awarded, along with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were distinguished for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions induced in response to very short pulses of energy.

In addition, his name is linked with the theory of the chemical hypercycle, the cyclic linkage of reaction cycles as an explanation for the self organization of prebiotic systems, which he described with Peter Schuster in 1979. Prof. Eigen is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

See also: Quasispecies model


  • Manfred Eigen and Peter Schuster The Hypercycle: A principle of natural self-organization, 1979, Springer ISBN 0-387-09293-5
  • Manfred Eigen, Ruthild Winkler: The Laws of the Game: How The Principles of Nature Govern Chance, 1993, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-02566-5
  • Manfred Eigen, "Molekulare Selbstorganisation und Evolution." (Self organization of matter and the evolution of biological macro molecules.) Naturwissenschaften 58 (10). 1971 pp. 465-523. In English. Influential theoretical paper on origin-of-life biochemistry.

Koronis' Viral Decay Acceleration™ (VDA) technology evolved initially from the original work of Manfred Eigen, Nobel Laureate at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen, Germany. He originated the concept of a “quasispecies” - the immensely large number of variants found in populations of virus, especially the RNA viruses (Scientific American July, 1993). A viral quasispecies is a highly structured and interrelated population of constantly evolving virus whose stability is defined by its genomic replication error rate. Intrinsic in this definition is the concept of a critical “error threshold” that sets the bounds for the allowed error rate and resultant diversity within the population and “error catastrophe”, the collapse of the population when that error rate is exceeded. The allowable extent of diversity of the viral population is further constrained by its environment. For example, the intact immune system and current drug therapy apply constant pressure to the allowable diversity. The adaptive, high natural rate of mutation allows the virus to rapidly develop drug resistance as a response to intense therapeutic drug-induced selective pressure.

In the case of HIV, the quasispecies results from the highly error-prone viral reverse transcriptase. Drs. Larry Loeb and Jim Mullins of the University of Washington and John Essigmann of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Koronis’ scientific founders, hypothesized that by presenting HIV with an error-inducing nucleoside triphosphate substrate, the viral genome mutation rate could be pushed beyond the allowable range of diversity thus extinguishing the population (Proceedings National Academy of Sciences. USA (1999) 96:1492-1497). This was demonstrated in cell culture using a nucleoside analog that normally base pairs with guanine but also frequently base pairs with adenine. This non-complementary base-pairing increased G to A and A to G mutations and ultimately, over the course of several viral replication cycles, resulted in viral ablation. This new approach to antiviral drug therapy, called Viral Decay Acceleration™, is being applied to several human viral pathogens including HIV and HCV by Koronis Pharmaceuticals.


  • Reinhard W. Schlögl (1997). "To Manfred Eigen on his 70th birthday". Biophysical Chemistry 66 (2-3): 71-73. doi:10.1016/S0301-4622(97)00075-6.
  • Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch (1987). "Manfred Eigen Scientist and Musician". Biophysical Chemistry 26 (2-3): 109-115. doi:10.1016/0301-4622(87)80015-7.
Preceded by
Robert S. Mulliken
Nobel Prize in Chemistry with:
Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter

Succeeded by
Lars Onsager
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Manfred_Eigen". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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