Exner Lectures 2021

May 17th & 18th, 2022

The events surrounding the awarding of the Wilhelm Exner Medals in 2020 and now 2021 had to be postponed due to the covid pandemic and will hopefully take place friction-free in May 2022.

The comprehensive programme for the anniversary year 2021 includes, as usual, the research foci of the laureates: With Luisa Torsi, Katalin Karikó and the laureate from 2020, Ed Boyden, the Exner Lectures in Vienna’s Palais Eschenbach are already expected to be of the highest calibre.

The lectures will be held in English. Secure your place now!

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In the anniversary year, two outstanding female researchers will be honoured for their discoveries that changed society and the economy.

“With Luisa Torsi and Katalin Karikó, the Wilhelm Exner Medal will be awarded to two outstanding researchers who, in keeping with Exner’s spirit, have triggered decisive industrial and commercial developments with their findings, inspired entrepreneurial activity and created an immanent social benefit,” reads Secretary General Stephan Blahut the jury’s decision for 2021.

The award of the medal is only made on the proposal of the previous medal holders and is determined in a secret session of the jury chaired by the former chairman of the Rectors’ Conference, Hans Sünkel.

“When the medal was awarded in 1921, the focus was on promoting the common good, industry, trade and commerce on the basis of scientific knowledge. Today, 100 years later, we can look at a fascinating and long list of 240 women and men who have been inventors, designers, chemists, physicists or biologists, including 23 Nobel Prize winners.”

All of the honourees more than live up to Exner’s claim. The potential of their research has led to countless company foundations, products and applications. Much can be expected in the coming years,” Blahut concludes the announcement and invites people to participate in the Exner Week events surrounding the award ceremony on 24 November 2021 at the Foundation’s headquarters, Palais Eschenbach, in Vienna.

Katalin Karikó

Katalin Karikó

University of Pennsylvania, USA; Biontech, D

Katalin Karikó is leading the development of mRNA-based drugs. Karikó and colleagues succeeded in packaging the sensitive mRNA molecules in lipid molecules. Such tiny nanoparticles can be injected into animals and humans without triggering a dangerous immune reaction. Their work is the basis for vaccines against covid-19 and for drugs against cancer, strokes or cystic fibrosis. The company Moderna was also founded on the basis of this technology. Karikó herself has been the senior vice president of research at Biontech since 2013.

Foto Katalin Karikó (1,4 MB) © Katalin Karikó

Luisa Torsi

Luisa Torsi

Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro

Luisa Torsi is a pioneer in organic bioelectronics. Her research cross-cuttingly combines electronic and electrochemical sensors, analytical chemistry, organic semiconductors, solid-state device physics, materials chemistry and physics. Standing at the forefront of one of the fastest growing research directions in organic electronics, her discoveries promise new technologies for healthcare and human well-being, for example very thin, energy-efficient electronics such as highly flexible displays for smartphones.

Foto Luisa Torsi (8,4 MB) © Marianna Ladisa


When the Austrian Trade Association OGV honored Wilhelm Exner in the 60th year of his membership in the association with the endowment of a medal, the focus of the then new award was the recognition of excellent research and discovery work.

Over the past hundred years, we have been able to pay tribute to precisely those men and women who lived up to Exner’s ideals at the interface of science, research and entrepreneurship, who often set new standards in their fields of research and who have been awarded the highest scientific honors.

The women and men who set out to gain new knowledge and thus enable the progress of our societies will also be the focus of the anniversary celebrations in Vienna at the end of November, 2021.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medal could not be presented in 2020. We are very pleased to be able to welcome Ed Boyden to Vienna for the 100th anniversary celebration and to make up for the honor in late November, 2021.

Edward S. Boyden

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA

Edward Boyden pioneered ‘expansion microscopy’, a method that embeds the object of interest in a polymer and enlarges it by swelling the matrix. The optical parameters are not changed for improved resolution, the object itself is enlarged. A revolution in the 300 year history of microscopy. Boyden is also going the other way: 3D nanofabrication. He can build up objects in this polymer, shrink them down through controlled shrinkage and thus open up new possibilities for the production of extremely fine structures. The companies Boyden co-founded have their business field in their names: Expansion Technologies and (in formation) Implosion Fabrication.

Foto Ed Boyden (10,4 MB) © Ed Boyden


Emmanuelle Charpentier

The Wilhelm Exner Medal Foundation cordially congratulates Emmanuelle Charpentier on the Nobel Prize for Chemistry

“Prof. Charpentier has revived people’s dream of curing hereditary and cancerous diseases with her research work on the CRISPR / Cas7 gene scissors. She rightly has been awarded this highest scientific honor,” says the foundation’s managing director, Prof. Hans Sünkel, delighting the decision of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The Wilhelm Exner Medal, named after the Austrian business and technology promoter, has been awarded since 1921 to 237 scientists and inventors who are distinguished by their relationship to business practice. Their contribution has been and still is the base for the growth of industry and commerce and therefore correspond to the principles represented by Wilhelm Exner.

Emmanuelle Charpentier was awarded the Wilhelm Exner Medal in 2016. “The announcement by the Nobel Prize Committee makes Charpentier the 23rd person to have received both awards,” said Secretary General Stephan Blahut, “We are proud that the most important Austrian award at the interface of science and business got this impressive confirmation.”

Emmanuelle Charpentiers Exner Lecture (2016)

Nobel Academy Website