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In memoriam Hartmut Beug (1945-2011)

03 Jul 2011

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Hartmut Beug, a founding member of the IMP (pictured left in 1988). Hartmut was a true scientist, creative and highly original. He integrated a stunning knowledge of cellular biology with original ideas into a truly novel, holistic approach to science that was often ahead of its time, and which led him to many pivotal discoveries in the field of oncology. Hartmut developed his great passion for biology at an early age.

He could talk enthusiastically about his science, but also about plants, mushrooms and birds as he walked with colleagues and friends in fields, forests or along the shore. Biology was his passion. With his big voice and his even bigger intellect, he also adored the fine arts and loved to play his banjo or quote whole books by heart. He brought the same passion to his friendships, caring deeply about those who were privileged to know him.

The mechanisms that cause cancer were the focus of his impressive scientific career. During the 1970s and 80s, he helped pioneer and establish the field of oncogene cooperativity, identifying new pairs of oncogenes in avian oncogenic viruses at the DKFZ and the EMBL in Heidelberg. Together with his colleagues, he was among the first to postulate that oncogenic transformation of hematopoietic cells requires the cooperation of aberrant growth factor signalling and transcriptional deregulation.

Upon moving to the IMP in Vienna in the early 90s, Hartmut focused on erythropoiesis and demonstrated again a critical role for cooperativity. His work revealed that the normal distinction between progenitor cell expansion and maturation relies on cooperation between endogenous signalling and transcription pathways, analogous to the cooperation he had seen between oncogenic viruses. In Vienna he also challenged himself to enter a new field and began to study the mechanisms that drive metastasis of breast cancer cells. Again, rather than studying a single gene, he showed how a cooperation of deregulated genes is required for epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastatic potential of cancer cells.

Just as he appreciated the importance of cooperativity in biology, Hartmut also valued cooperation in the pursuit of his science. With his great curiosity and collegiality, Hartmut entered into many scientific collaborations that extended his impact in the field of carcinogenesis well beyond the work conducted in his own lab.

In 2010, when he turned 65, Hartmut retired from the IMP. But he did not retire from his scientific pursuits and convictions, continuing to work on leukemogenesis and cancer metastasis at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and through his many collaborations.

Sadly, Hartmut was not given enough time to fulfill this vision himself. However, he remained committed to his dream of promoting international scientific cooperation and the exploration of new avenues of investigation, and with typical foresight established during the last months of his life the “Hartmut and Margrit Beug Foundation for Metastasis Research”. The goal of this foundation is to allow young scientists to collaborate on new ideas and obtain the preliminary data necessary to further support their research through regular grants. Those who would like to honour Hartmut Beug’s contribution to science are invited to contribute to his foundation.

Beug Stiftung für Metastasierungsforschung
Jahnstrasse 57
69221 Dossenheim

Bank details:

Sparkasse Heidelberg
IBAN: DE76 6725 0020 0009 1729 98

Hartmut Beug: Scientific CV

1988 to 2010
Senior Scientist IMP

1983 to 1988
Staff Scientist at EMBL (Thomas Graf lab)

1978 to 1983
Postdoc at Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum DKFZ (Thomas Graf lab)

1973 to 1978
Postdoc at Max Planck Institut für Virusforschung, Tübingen (Thomas Graf lab)

1971 to 1973
PhD studies, Friedrich Miescher Labor of Max Planck Institute in Tübingen
Thesis on Dictyostelium, supervision Günther Gerisch

1964 to 1971
Studies of biology at Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

Graduation from school in Hamburg (Abitur)

Born in Hamburg, Germany

Anton Bauer, Paula Enrietto, Mike Hayman and Marieke von Lindern