Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program (HSFP). He was the first Secretary General of the European Research Council (January 2007 - June 2009).
After post-doctoral work in 1972, he became Assistant and then DFG Visiting Professor at the Institute for Genetics at the University of Cologne. In 1977 he took up the position of Associate Professor at the Institute of Biochemistry at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich where he was made full professor in 1980.
His main fields of research are virus/cell interaction, the mechanisms of gene expression in higher cells, and prion diseases. From 1984 to 1997, he was Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the University of Munich Gene Center.
In 1998 he was elected President of the German Research Foundation (DFG), a position he held until the end of 2006. From 2003 to 2004 he was Chairman of the European Heads of Research Councils (EUROHORCs) and, from 2000 to 2004, Member of the European Group on Life Science (established by European Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin).
Prizes and distinctions include the Arthur Burckhardt Prize and the Zimmermann Prize for Cancer Research. Among other memberships, he is a member of the United States Institute of Medicine, of the Academia Europea and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Dr. Winnacker holds a Dr. honoris causa from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and is a member of the Bavarian Maximiliansorden for the Sciences and the Art since 1999 . He is the recipient of the 2009 International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the People’s Republic of China, of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star of Japan (2009), of the Commanders’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2007).
He was named a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2006 and received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2006. Dr. Winnacker who is the author of several books and textbooks, among them “From Genes to Clones”, studied chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1968, and completed post-doctorates at the University of California in Berkeley and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm from 1968 to 1972.