A tribute to Prof. Heidi Diggelmann (1936-2022)

Date de publication


Prof. Heidi Diggelmann was a group leader at the Institut Suisse de Recherche Expérimentale sur le Cancer (ISREC) in Epalinges (1971-1991) before becoming head of the University of Lausanne Institute of Microbiology (1991-2001). She then served as a member of the ISREC Foundation Council from 2001 to 2012. The institute and the foundation are deeply grateful to Prof. Diggelmann for her invaluable expertise and her commitment to our missions over the past years.
After her studies in medicine in her hometown Bern, Heidi Diggelmann initially considered pursuing a clinical career in internal medicine. However, after a brief stint at the district hospital in Thun, she discovered the appeal of laboratory work during her research for her doctoral thesis in Bern. She was immediately attracted to the new field of molecular biology, still in its infancy at the time.
A renowned scientist, Heidi Diggelmann mainly devoted her 40-year scientific career to the study of carcinogenic viruses. Her research especially aimed to understand the mechanisms involved in the replication of retroviruses, known to cause various types of cancers in animals and human beings. Her studies were also devoted to the understanding of the immune system.
Heidi Diggelmann received numerous prestigious awards for her research, including the Friedrich Miescher Award (1976), the Max Cloëtta Prize (1984), the Otto Naegeli Prize of the Bonizzi-Theler Foundation (1992) and the “Prix de l’Etat de Berne” of the University of Lausanne (2002).
In addition to her research and teaching activities, Heidi Diggelmann was deeply committed to research policy issues. She was in particular a member of the Swiss Committee for Biological Safety (1990-1995), the ETH Board (1990-1996), the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, as well as the Science et Cité Foundation. Furthermore, from 1997 to 2004 she was the president of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
The ISREC Institute’s scientists in 1988, standing from left to right: Paul Amstad, Christophe Reymond, Rex Tyrrell, Viesturs Simanis, Bernard Sordat, Peter Cerutti, Bernhard Hirt (Director), Otto Hagenbüchle, Elena Buetti, Erich Nigg et Markus Nabholz. Sitting from left to right: Peter Wellauer, Jean-Pierre Kraehenbuhl, Heidi Diggelmann, Lukas Kühn, Susan Gasser et Peter Beard.