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The President of the Helmholtz Association is responsible for implementing the program-oriented funding (POF) system and developing the Association's general strategy.

The President represents the Association internally, externally and internationally. The President is elected by the Senate every five years following a proposal submitted by the Assembly of Members (the 18 research centers). The President can serve a maximum of two terms.

Helmholtz-President Otmar D. Wiestler. Picture: Phil Dera

The President's responsibilities

The Statutes of the Helmholtz Association define the President's responsibilities as to:

  • Prepare and implement the Senate recommendations on programme funding, including the organization of programme evaluations;
  • coordinate the development of programs across research fields and to develop the general strategy;
  • represent the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft e.V. externally;
  • coordinate the financial controlling system across all the centers;
  • present draft resolutions on the programs and their budgets in the Senate;
  • Negotiate, on the basis of Senate recommendations, with the centers and financing partners on the total funding requirement for the Helmholtz Association and on the distribution of the association budget across the research fields.

The President has a so-called Initiative and Networking Fund worth 60m euros per year at his disposal. This instrument enables him to carry forward the association's development and to accelerate the reform processes. The President can use the fund to specifically drive forward the programme-oriented funding and to extend examples of best practice developed in individual Helmholtz Centers across the whole association. The president is elected on the basis of the proposal of the General Assembly every five years by the Senate, for a maximum of two terms. He is assisted by eight vice presidents and managing directors.

The Incumbent: Professor Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler

Otmar D. Wiestler was born in Freiburg (Breisgau, Germany) on 6 November 1956. After completing his medical studies at the University of Freiburg, he obtained his Doctorate in Medicine in 1984 (summa cum laude). Between 1984 and 1987 he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, USA. He then changed to the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, where he qualified as University Lecturer in Pathology. In 1992 the University of Bonn appointed him as Professor for Neuropathology and Director of the Institut für Neuropathologie where he helped to establish a large neuroscientific research center.  Between January 2004 and August 2015 Professor Wiestler led, as Chairman of the Executive Board and Scientific Director, the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg (DKFZ), which is one of the leading institutions in cancer Research in the world.

When he was appointed as President on 1 September 2015 Professor Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler noted:

Helmholtz Association’s greatest strength is to be found in the eighteen research centers, which distinguish themselves through critical mass, pronounced interdisciplinary expertise, excellent infrastructure and outstanding scientists. Consequently, the centers comprise the motor for innovative research topics that are strategically positioned at the level of the respective research area, thus forming the research landscape. At the same time, the Association fosters cohesion internally while representing these research areas externally.

We are in a position, more than almost any other research organization, to tackle huge scientific challenges with a comprehensive and sustainable approach. Based on our key topics we can, in particular, close ranks between exceptional basic research, systems analysis and translation in application-based aspects (in the sense of a virtuous cycle of innovation). These expectations can only be met when we establish a high degree of flexibility, keep our portfolio under close and on-going scrutiny and continue to increase our attractiveness for the best minds in the particular field. And in the implementation of this strategy, alliances with the strongest partners from academia and industry in the national and international environment play a vital role.


Otmar D. Wiestler

Helmholtz Association

Anne Einhäupl

Chief of Staff
Helmholtz Association

Benjamin Hoß

Executive Assistant
Helmholtz Association

Cornelia Sigleur

Assistant Office of the President
Helmholtz Association

Vita and list of publications

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