The Leibniz-HKI mourns the loss of its former department head Axel Stelzner

| by Friederike Gawlik

Portrait photograph of Prof. Dr. Axel Stelzner from the University of Jena, in black and white.
Prof. Dr. Axel Stelzner (1937–2024). Photo: Anne Günther/FSU

It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to Prof. Dr. Axel Stelzner, who, in addition to his work as a specialist in medical microbiology in Jena, was also head of the Department of Drug Testing at the former ‘Hans Knöll Institute for Drug Research and Infection Biology’ for many years.

Axel Stelzner began his academic career by studying medicine at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, where he completed his doctorate at what is now the Institute of Medical Microbiology and later completed his habilitation on immunological detection methods. In the 1980s, various scientific positions led him to the Central Institute for Microbiology and Experimental Therapy (ZIMET) of the GDR Academy of Sciences, where he headed the Department of Immunopathology and Virology. In the course of German reunification, the academy institutes were dissolved and Stelzner was involved in setting up new institutional structures. Until his retirement in 2002, he was director of the newly founded Institute of Virology at the Friedrich Schiller University and simultaneously headed the Department of Drug Testing at today's Leibniz-HKI. This made him a key figure in the close and successful cooperation between the Leibniz-HKI and the University of Jena, which continues to this day. In his research, Axel Stelzner focused on the development and testing of new drugs, particularly in the field of viral infectious diseases.

In addition to his scientific work, Stelzner was also active in the preservation of historical monuments and was particularly passionate about preserving the village church in Göttern. He mobilized resources and people to save the church from decay, earning him the title of “church rescuer”. Stelzner also had a great historical interest in the history of Thuringia. He therefore penned several cultural-historical publications on the subject as well as numerous lectures.

Stelzner's scientific excellence and academic commitment contributed to the high reputation and successes of the Leibniz-HKI and had a profound impact on the scientific community in Jena and beyond. Axel Stelzner will be remembered as a brilliant researcher, committed fellow human being and inspiring colleague. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.